Somerset's quest for sixth conference title shot down by DurandThe showdown for the Middle Border Conference football lead was as exciting and action packed as anticipated.
By: Dave Newman, New Richmond News
The showdown for the Middle Border Conference football lead was as exciting and action packed as anticipated.
The game wasn’t decided until the final two minutes, when Durand scored on a 24-yard double pass play to shock Somerset, 16-13.
Somerset was gunning for its sixth straight Middle Border Conference championship. Durand now has sole leadership of the MBC with a 6-0 record. Somerset falls to 5-1 and the Spartans face another difficult challenge this Friday when they host Osceola. The Chieftains are also 5-1 in the MBC. The winner of Friday’s game could still get a share of the MBC title if Ellsworth were to upset Durand. A win would also be critically important as the teams jockey for position in the upcoming WIAA playoff seeding.
Somerset coach Bruce Larson said the Spartans must clean up their play if they expect to go anywhere in the WIAA playoffs. Because the Spartans have won by large margins all season, Friday’s game was the first time this season that the team’s mistakes had consequences. And the consequences were huge.
The three fumbles were crushers. The Spartans were able to move the ball on the ground for much of the night, when their own mistakes weren’t ending drives. The Spartans had a fumbled snap and a fumble when a block was missed. After Durand took a 16-13 lead with two minutes left, the Spartans fumbled away their final chance on a dropped pitchout.
The final fumble came seconds after the Spartans had a kickoff return touchdown wiped out by a block in the back penalty. Two penalties on the same play ended a Spartan threat on the opening drive of the second half. The Spartans drove inside the Durand 25, but a block in the back penalty and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty took the Spartans out of striking range.
“We made too many mistakes, we’ve done it all year,” Larson said. “We’ve got to stop making them or get the storage shed ready.”
When the Spartans weren’t damaging their own chances, they were moving the ball well on offense. The Spartans scored on their opening possession of the game, with senior Gabe Flandrick scoring from 25 yards out. Flandrick was originally stopped at the line on a sweep to the left, but broke through traffic to get the touchdown.
Durand answered right back with a scoring drive. Somerset neutralized Durand’s running game for much of the night, but the Panthers were able to hit some well-timed passes. Durand’s score came on a 24-yard pass from Jake Weber to tight end Drew Minturn.
Durand took a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter on a 29-yard field goal by C.J. Schade. The Spartans were fortunate to give up just a field goal after fumbling the ball away at their own 15-yard line.
The Spartans were able to take the lead with a drive late in the second quarter. Quarterback Tyler Ledbeter broke through a hole created by the left side of the line, going 25 yards for the score that put Somerset ahead 13-10 heading into halftime.
The Spartans had several possessions when they moved the ball with some success in the second half, but were held scoreless. Durand was able to put together a drive late in the fourth quarter. Everyone will remember the winning touchdown, but the Spartans could have prevented that play from happening. Durand was able to complete a fourth down pass for 12 yards and a first down. On the next play the Panthers got the winning score. Weber was lined up at wide receiver, catching a backward pass. He then threw to Jacob Biesterveld in the end zone, who caught the ball while closely guarded by two Spartan linebackers.
Somerset outgained Durand offensively in the game, 264 to 241. Somerset had 253 yards rushing, while 185 of Durand’s yardage came from the passing game.