Somerset football gets another shot at Ellsworth
The Somerset football team gets the chance to avenge its only loss of the season.
The Spartans will play at Ellsworth at 7 p.m. this Friday in Level 3 of the WIAA Division 4 football playoffs. The Spartans advanced through Level 2 with a sometimes shaky performance, beating Prescott 28-14. Ellsworth also had its hands full in Level 2, winning at Black River Falls 38-33.
If the Spartans hope to win on Friday, they’ll need to clean up the numerous mistakes they made against Prescott. The Spartans turned the ball over five times on fumbles, three by the offense and two on special teams.
“You can’t turn the ball over, not in the playoffs,” Somerset coach Bruce Larson said. “If we do that again, we’ll be done.”
The saving grace for the Spartans against Prescott was the team’s defense. The Spartans fumbled on the first play from scrimmage in the game, with Prescott recovering at the Spartan 23. The Spartan defense held. Senior Gaelin Elmore then bull-rushed up the middle to block a Prescott field goal attempt.
The Spartans had to punt after a poor decision on a handoff on its next possession. This time the defense couldn’t stop Prescott. Cardinal quarterback Alex Helmer scored with 2:28 left in the quarter.
A 65-yard kickoff return by Somerset senior Bailey White was the jolt the Spartans needed. A Prescott penalty kept the drive alive. On the first play of the second quarter, Somerset fullback Max Praschak barged into the end zone for the team’s first touchdown.
Prescott’s offense would be almost completely shut down for the rest of the game, outside of two long pass plays. Prescott had 169 yards of offense for the night and 129 of the yards came on those two plays.
Prescott’s offense had a number of negative numbers because of numerous quarterback sacks by the Spartan defense. The Spartan pass rush was ruthless. Elmore and Tyler Lueck are the usual leaders of the pass rush. This time the Spartans were also getting a strong inside push from Colton Brown and Cole Martinsen. The Spartans also used a number of blitzes, with White, Reed Baillargeon and Praschak among the blitzers who harassed Helmer.
The Spartans fumbled the ball away again the middle of the second quarter, but the defense quickly returned the ball to the Spartan offense. This time, led by Baillargeon at quarterback, the Spartans drove 69 yards to take the lead. Praschak scored again, this time on a 9-yard run. The Spartans maintained that 14-7 lead to halftime.
The opening Somerset possession of the second half resulted in another fumble, but the defense again held, with White getting a third down sack. When the Spartans got the ball back, they used a steady diet of running plays from Baillargeon and Praschak to get into scoring position. Halfback Brody Penman was able to turn the corner to score the touchdown on a 15-yard run.
Prescott answered quickly. The Cards scored on a 75-yard pass from Helmer to Troy Urman. It appeared that the Somerset cornerback had let Urman go uncovered downfield on the play. Larson said the play wasn’t the fault of the cornerback, but of a Spartan safety who had downfield responsibility in that zone coverage.
The Spartans reestablished their two-touchdown margin with a 65-yard drive early in the fourth quarter. The Spartans had been hammering at the Prescott defense with Praschak runs up the middle. They finally got big results when Praschak ran off left tackle, breaking free for a 44-yard touchdown.
Prescott was attacking Somerset’s outside running game, funneling the Spartan plays to the middle. That led to Praschak carrying the ball 32 times for 198 yards. The rest of the Spartans carried the ball 23 times for 77 yards.
Baillargeon played most of the game at quarterback, rushing for 44 yards. He also recorded an interception and a forced fumble on defense.
Coach Larson said the mistakes made in Friday’s game stood out because they were so glaring, saying the team has to improve its “football IQ.” Larson added, “You hope it’s an isolated thing, because the last five or six weeks we’ve played pretty well. I don’t know that we made a gazillion mistakes, but the ones we made were so blatant and obvious they overshadowed everything else we did.”