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Spartans inflict another Bloomer heartache

Somerset fullback Max Praschak (29) drags a Bloomer defender as Praschak carried the ball to the 1-yard line in the overtime on Friday. Praschak scored the go-ahead touchdown on the next play, before adding the two-point conversion on the following play.

Bloomer keeps coming back for more, but each time, the Somerset football team finds a way to frustrate the Blackhawks.

Somerset and Bloomer clashed for the fifth time in the past three seasons in the 2013 season opener at Somerset's Seibel Field last Friday. And just like the four previous meetings, Somerset came out with a hard-fought victory. This was the second overtime game in the three-year series, but it didn't match the five-overtime agonizer of two years ago. This time the Spartans were able to put the game away in the first overtime, taking down the Blackhawks 22-14.

Junior fullback Max Praschak learned what it's like to be the workhorse in the Somerset offense during Friday's game. Praschak carried the ball for 96 yards on 26 carries, getting nearly all the Spartans' carries in the second half and the overtime. Praschak scored the winning touchdown on a 1-yard vault into the end zone. He set up the touchdown with an 8-yard run that gave the Spartans a badly needed first down.

When Bloomer got its chance in the overtime, the Spartan defense rose up. Bloomer tried to run the ball on its first two plays, but the Spartan defense swallowed up the ballcarrier both times for no gain.

Bloomer then tried to pass on the final two downs, but a charging Somerset pass rush caused incompletions on both plays.

The best news from this game for Bloomer is the Blackhawks likely won't have to face Somerset again this season. Bloomer appears to have a lower enrollment for the upcoming school year, meaning Somerset and Bloomer probably won't end up in the same division if both teams make the playoffs.

Somerset coach Bruce Larson was complimentary of his team's performance on Friday, saying it was better than the Spartans' 2012 season opening 28-14 win over Bloomer.

"When you put 10 new starters out there and they fight like that, that speaks very well for them," Larson said.

The Spartans were the better team for most of the first half, building up a 14-0 lead. The Spartans were able to get the ball to the edge, with halfback Aaron Moore scoring the first touchdown on a 14-yard run. The Spartan' lead grew to 14-0 when Praschak capped a drive with a 1-yard run with 2 minutes left in the second quarter.

Special teams were an area where the Spartans struggled Friday. After Praschak's score, the Spartans gave up a 60-yard kickoff return that immediately put Bloomer within scoring range. The Blackhawks scored moments later on a 26-yard pass.

"We played a great first half, then we let them back into the game with that kickoff return," Larson said. "That's a problem that has to be fixed. Our kicking game was atrocious."

Turnovers stunted the Spartans' offense in the fourth quarter, when the Spartans gave the ball away on two fumbles and an interception. Bloomer nearly turned the final turnover into the game-winning points.

The Blackhawks hit a 47-yard pass with two minutes left in the game. The Blackhawks then played for a field goal attempt. The 28-yard kick had the distance to be good from 48 yards out, but the kick curled just outside the left upright, sending the game into overtime.

The Spartans were able to win despite Bloomer's large edge in experience. The Blackhawks brought back a majority of the team the Spartans faced in the playoffs.

"There were five or six (Somerset) kids who've never started a game in any varsity sport," Larson said. "The kids got a really good test of their will and they came through."

The Spartans will get another stiff test this Friday when they travel to Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau for a non-conference game. G-E-T lost to Mondovi 28-24 last Friday, but G-E-T was missing several players who are expected back for this Friday's clash.

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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