Wins, injuries piling up for Spartans
The wins, and the injuries, continue to mount for the Somerset football team.
The Spartans climbed to 3-0 in the Middle Border Conference on Friday, holding off two late charges from Durand to score a 22-18 win in Somerset's Homecoming game.
Twice in Friday's fourth quarter it looked like Durand was driving for the go-ahead score, but each time Somerset's defense came up with a big play to end the threat.
Early in the fourth quarter Durand went on a long drive, taking up more than six minutes with their runs behind an unbalanced line that was like a moving wall of blockers. Durand reached the Spartan 10 and were trying another wide run, when the wall stopped along the Durand sideline. Somerset linebacker Jake Asp popped the ball out of Derek Radle's hands and Somerset's Alex Sullivan scooped up the free ball. Sullivan sprinted 90 yards for the touchdown. Asp's run for the two-point conversion gave Somerset a 22-12 lead with 5:35 left in the game.
It took Durand just over two minutes to answer that touchdown. The Panthers caught Somerset in a blitz and completed a pass over the middle for 48 yards. Moments later the Panthers scored on a 30-yard pass from Radle to Lance Hovland.
Somerset recovered Durand's onside kick, but the Spartans couldn't get a first down that would have run out the clock. Durand got the ball back at its 15 with 81 seconds left in regulation. The Panthers immediately completed a 44-yard pass, moving the ball into Somerset territory.
The Panthers had the Spartans on their heels, but the ball took a fortunate bounce for the Spartans. The Panthers tried a shotgun snap, but the ball slipped out of the hands of the Durand quarterback. Spartan linemen Jeff Burke and Ross LaVenture dove in to prevent the quarterback from recovering, and LaVenture cradled the ball for the recovery with 25 seconds left in the game.
Durand was able to drive the ball all over the field, especially in the second half of the game. But it was Somerset that found ways to get the ball into the end zone. Durand finished the game with 495 yards of total offense, nearly twice Somerset's total of 253 yards.
A couple big plays in the first half accounted for most of Somerset's offense. In Somerset's first possession, Sullivan broke away for a 61-yard run on an option play. Two plays later, Asp scored on a 21-yard run.
Late in the second quarter Evan Kowalski produced one of the more spectacular runs seen in years. Kowalski took a pitch near the Spartan sideline and was nearly pulled to the ground by a defender who grabbed ahold of his collar. Falling backward, Kowalski braced himself on his free hand and spun out of the tackle. He then waited for a wall of blockers to come rushing to his rescue. He cut behind that wall and sprinted down the field for a 76-yard run.
In the third quarter Kowalski was the latest Spartan added to his injury list. He felt his knee pop out of joint, and Spartan coach Bruce Larson estimates the injury will sideline Kowalski 2-4 weeks.
Spartan junior lineman Burt Geurkink underwent knee surgery last Wednesday. Geurkink, who has rapidly become one of the best two-way linemen in the conference, is facing a six month recovery process.
Larson said the Spartans have been so decimated by injuries that in the second half on Friday, there were times that the Spartans only had two players on the field who played varsity ball last year.
"We are hanging in there," Larson said of the team's ability to suffer all the injuries and keep winning. "Give an awful lot of credit to our kids, they keep going. It's amazing to me."
This Friday the Spartans will be playing at Ellsworth. The Spartans need one more win to clinch a place in the 2006 WIAA state playoffs. The Somerset-Ellsworth game last year was one of the biggest offensive shows in many years in the MBC and this year's game has the potential to be another remarkable offensive game.
Somerset 22, Durand 18
Durand 0 6 6 6 18
Somerset 8 6 0 8 22
Som -- Jake Asp, 21 yard run (Asp run)
Dur -- Derek Radle, 1 yard run (run failed)
Som -- Evan Kowalski, 76 yard run (pass failed)
Dur -- Radle, 27 yard run (run failed)
Som -- Alex Sullivan, 90 yard fumble return (Asp run)
Dur -- Lance Hovland, 30 yard pass from Radle (run failed)
First Downs 8 21
Rushing Yards 253 338
Passing Yards 0 157
Passes 0-3-0 int. 5-9-1 int.
Penalties 5-30 4-20
Som -- Jake Asp 20-89; Alex Sullivan 5-82; Evan Kowalski 5-79; Josh Wiederin 1-4; Calin Hehling 2-(-1)
Som -- Alex Sullivan 0-2-0 int., 0 yards; Evan Kowalski 0-1-0
Som -- None