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Somerset football in playoffs, but more objectives remain

Somerset fullback Vern Breault barges into the end zone with one of his touchdowns in the Spartans' 46-0 win over Amery.1 / 2
Somerset defensive lineman Reggie Larson (right) wrestles an Amery running back to the ground in the first half of Friday's 46-0 Spartan victory.2 / 2

Friday's 46-0 win by the Somerset football team locked up a spot in the WIAA playoffs for the Spartans, but there are several higher objectives remaining for the Spartans to accomplish this season.

The Spartans will play at home again this Friday, with winless Baldwin-Woodville as the opponent. This will be the third straight game for the Spartans against a sub-.500 opponent. The Spartan coaches have been stressing improvement in these games, because the following Friday, Somerset and Durand clash in the game that will likely decide the 2012 Middle Border Conference championship. That game will be played in Durand and it will be the Panthers' Homecoming game.

Somerset coach Bruce Larson doesn't want the Spartans to get an overinflated ego because they've been winning handily in their games this season.

"We're getting lulled into a false sense of security because we're winning games," Larson said.

The security for the Spartans is the reliability of the team's defense. Amery could manage just three first downs in Friday's game and they all came in one drive during the second half. Amery finished the game with 68 yards of offense, compared to 448 yards for the Spartans.

One of the key factors for the Spartan defense was the pass rush. In each of Amery's first three offensive series, the possession was ended when the Spartan defense was able to sack Amery quarterback Jordan Luehman on third down.

Amery's defense caused the Spartans a few problems in the first half too. Amery was doing a great deal of last-second shifting and stunting in an effort to throw off the reads of the Spartan offense. Somerset was able to build a 24-0 lead at halftime, but the offense didn't always look its sharpest.

At halftime, the Spartan coaches decided to go back to what has been their offensive tradition, starting with blasting the fullback up the middle. Fullback Vern Breault carried seven straight times to start the second half, gaining 72 yards in the process. The Spartans were eventually stopped on downs at the Amery 11, but that drive set the tone for a much more productive half from the Spartan offense.

The next two Spartan possessions were capped by something else that's been missing from the team's production, the big play. Senior quarterback Tyler Ledbeter took care of that personally, breaking away for touchdowns of 88 and 79 yards. Ledbeter finished the game with 205 yards rushing and Breault contributed 138 yards on the ground.

The upturn in the offense in the second half was a sharp turn from the spotty production in the first half. The Spartans fumbled the ball away on their first offensive play of the game. The defense didn't let Amery take advantage of the turnover, getting the ball back at the Spartan 30.

Somerset was able to march 70 yards, sparked by first down-producing sweeps from halfbacks Robbie Lang and Bobby LeRoy. Breault scored the game's first touchdown with 28 seconds left in the first quarter on a 15-yard blast up the middle.

A pass from Ledbeter to Lang got the Spartans in position for their second touchdown, which Breault scored on a 1-yard plunge with 7:28 left in the second quarter.

Amery replied with a long kickoff to the Somerset 14, but the Spartan defense stood its ground and Amery missed a 26-yard field goal attempt.

Despite several penalties, the Spartans were able to drive 80 yards to score just before halftime. Ledbeter found Lang streaking down the Amery sideline for a 42-yard reception for the score with 1:01 left in the half.

Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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