State heartbreak: Somerset football team beaten in double overtime in state football championship game
Few people around the state believed that the Somerset football team had a prayer of winning in the WIAA Division 4 state championship game.
When the Spartans took the field, they believed. And by the end of the game, they had converted many non-believers around the state.
Somerset and Wrightstown waged one of the more memorable games in recent years in the WIAA state championships. Somerset and Wrightstown battled through regulation, and then two overtimes, before Wrightstown could stop the Spartans, 28-26. The game was played last Thursday at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.
The Somerset-Wrightstown game was the first double-overtime game in WIAA state football championship history. The game was packed with so many twists and turns that whichever team ended up losing would have to face the "what-ifs" of things that didn't work out.
"The bottom line is, we needed to make one more play," said Somerset coach Bruce Larson. "We had our chances, we were right there. There's a lot of places we could have made that one play."
Both teams also had a significant number of successful plays that heightened the drama of the game.
Both teams fought back from deficits in the second half.
It appeared Somerset was in trouble when Wrightstown took a 12-6 lead early in the fourth quarter. Somerset's fire was flickering until Larson dusted off a rarely used trick play. Receiver Austin Bushinger got the ball, gaining 48 yards on a reverse, which instantly reenergized the Somerset sideline. On the next play, Spartan quarterback Tyler Ledbeter dodged two Wrightstown defenders, scoring on a 23-yard keeper. Ledbeter also scored the two-point conversion, putting Somerset in front, 14-12.
Somerset's defense then came up with a stop and the Spartans quickly rode the momentum to another touchdown. It was Ledbeter scoring again, following the same track as his first touchdown, this time going 48 yards. Somerset couldn't convert the two-point conversion, which would prove fatal to the Spartans' chances of winning in regulation.
Wrightstown tied the game with 23 seconds left in regulation. Wrightstown only had to go 37 yards for the touchdown. The Tigers had a kickoff return to their own 48. On the next play the Spartans were flagged for a hit out of bounds on Tiger quarterback Jordan Johnson. Larson was not pleased with this penalty, saying the video footage of the game shows Johnson was still inbounds when he was tackled.
Johnson did nearly all the damage on rollouts. Johnson found tight end Cody Lukes on a snap pass from four yards out and then Johnson rolled out, reaching the end zone for the two-point conversion that tied the score at 20-20.
Somerset got the ball first in the opening overtime. Neither team could score in the first overtime.
Wrightstown got the ball first in the second overtime. Tiger fullback Jackson Fox broke through the Spartan line on a trap play, scoring from 23 yards out. Johnson scored the two-point conversion again, building the lead to 28-20.
Somerset also scored in the second overtime. A 16-yard pass from Ledbeter to Bushinger moved the ball to the Wrightstown 4-yard line. On the next play, fullback Vern Breault burrowed into the end zone for the touchdown. Ledbeter tried to score the two-point conversion, but was stopped before he could break the line. That suddenly ended the game, leaving the stunned Spartans to deal with the loss.
The first half of the game was a scoreless defensive battle. Somerset forced two turnovers on an interception by Ryan Himes and a fumble recovery by Trevor Schroeder. The Spartans were hurt by several fumbles in the first half, including one by Ledbeter when the Spartans were one yard away from a touchdown.
Some pundits around the state groused about Somerset not trying to kick an extra point after the Spartans went ahead 20-12, not knowing the Spartans haven't tried to kick an extra point all year. Larson pointed to Wrightstown's two kick attempts as all the validation he needed. Somerset's Haydon Dvorak leaped high into the air to block the first attempt and Wrightstown's holder muffed the snap on the second attempt.
The Spartans did everything to put themselves in a position to win the game. Somerset had a nine-minute edge in time of possession, cutting into the opportunities for Wrightstown's big play offense.
Ledbeter finished the game with 113 yards rushing for the Spartans. Junior fullback Vern Breault was able to gain 52 yards on 16 carries. Larson said he didn't expect Breault to play after Breault severely sprained his ankle in the playoff win against Bloomer. Breault and freshman Max Praschak split time at fullback combining for 92 yards.
The Spartans finish the season with a 12-2 record. This is the third time they were runner-ups at state. They also finished second in 2004 and 2005. They won a state championship in 2002.
Larson said reaching the state championship game this season was a tribute to the dedication shown by the 11 Spartan seniors.
"Our senior leadership was phenomenal. They imposed their will on the rest of the team," Larson said. "They knew what they wanted and went after it with everything they had and brought a lot of guys along with them. They understood what it takes to be a team."
Wrightstown 28, Somerset 26
S -- Vern Breault, 1 yard run (run failed)
W -- Jackson Fox, 1 yard run (kick blocked)
W -- Fox, 29 yard run (run failed)
S -- Tyler Ledbeter, 23 yard run (Ledbeter run)
S -- Ledbeter, 48 yard run (run failed)
W -- Cody Lukes, 4 yard pass from Jordan Johnson (Johnson run)
W -- Fox, 23 yard run (Johnson run)
S -- Breault, 4 yard run (run failed)
Somerset Rushing: Tyler Ledbeter 17-121; Vern Breault 16-52; Austin Bushinger 1-48; Max Praschak 11-40; Haydon Dvorak 4-29; Alex Putz 1-5; Robbie Flom 1-(-4)
Somerset Passing: Tyler Ledbeter 2-4, 31 yards, 0 interceptions; Haydon Dvorak 0-1, 0 interceptions
Somerset Receiving: Austin Bushinger 1-16; Gaelin Elmore 1-15