Spartans play their best at end of season

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The final game of the season showed that the Somerset football team had drastically improved over the final month of the season.

Somerset knew its chances of getting into the WIAA playoffs were hanging by a thread, at most, but the Spartans still put in an outstanding effort in their season finale against St. Croix Central. The Spartans scored midway through the third quarter to cut Central's lead to 7-6. Central came back with two late touchdowns to defeat the Spartans 21-6.

Somerset finished the season with a 2-7 record. The Spartans went 2-1 in their final three games and returned to the ways that had them putting up outstanding efforts in losses against Bloomer and Superior at the start of the season.

"Over the last four weeks, we really came on and played some good football," Somerset coach Bruce Larson said.

Larson said the three-game lull in the middle of the season where the Spartans lost to Osceola, Ellsworth and Prescott was the team's undoing. Even in the loss to undefeated Osceola, the Spartans played capably, trailing 30-20 in the third quarter before Osceola scored two late touchdowns to win 43-20.

The only Somerset touchdown came on a lengthy drive at the start of the second half. The Spartans were able to overcome two penalties during the drive. Senior quarterback Bennett Baillargeon scored the touchdown, going around left end on a keeper for the 7-yard score.

Somerset junior Jack Peterson finished the season as the leading rusher in the Middle Border Conference. He finished the season with 1,378 yards on 204 carries, a 6.8 yards per carry average. He also rushed for 15 touchdowns. Peterson ran for 73 yards on 17 carries in Friday's game.

One area where the Spartans did have problems Friday was on pitch plays. Central's defensive ends were crashing hard and they caused several pitches to be fumbled. The Spartans lost two of them.

Larson was impressed with the intensity both teams brought into the game.

"It was a good old-fashioned snot knocker," he said. "We got some good knocks on them."

One of the main reasons the Spartans went 2-1 in the final three games was the improvement made by the defense. The Spartans gave up 250 points in the first six games. In the final three games, opponents scored a combined 28 points.

"We didn't make a lot of personnel changes. The players took it upon themselves to do better," Larson said. "We worked at it to make the best of it."

The Spartans graduate 19 seniors, a group that earned the respect of the coaches.

"They did a nice job off the field. They're great students. They're genuinely good guys, they give everything they have," Larson said.