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Somerset is second five-time champion in Middle Border Conference football history

Junior quarterback Tyler Ledbeter (with ball) was met by Durand's TJ Auth as he tried to turn the corner on this running play.1 / 2
Somerset halfback Robbie Flom (26) got good yardage on one of the few attempts the Spartans could spring a running back to the outside.2 / 2

The Somerset football team pulled off one of the most historic wins in Middle Border Conference history last Friday.

By beating Durand 22-15, the Spartans have earned a share of the 2011 MBC championship. This is the fifth straight year that the Spartans have won the MBC title and the eighth time they've won the title since joining the MBC 10 years ago. In the two years when the Spartans didn't win an MBC title, they finished in second place.

In the nearly 80 year history of the Middle Border Conference, only one other team has won five straight football championships. That team was Mondovi, winning the titles from 1976-80. Those Mondovi teams were built around one of the top individual players in conference history, Tim Krumrie. Krumrie went on to be one of the best defensive linemen of the past generation at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He then moved on to the National Football League, where he was one of the top defensive tackles in the game. He played for the Cincinnati Bengals from 1983 to 1994. He has since become a top defensive line coach.

Somerset coach Bruce Larson, who has directed the team during its span in the MBC, spread around the credit that goes with this level of success.

"A lot of kids are responsible for that, kids that have done some really neat things," Larson said.

Durand and Somerset came into Friday's game with identical 4-1 conference records and 6-1 overall marks. Both teams have leaned heavily on their defenses this season and that showed on Friday. The defenses dominated the game and it was a defensive touchdown that was the deciding score.

Durand struck first, breaking a 62-yard run on its first play from scrimmage. Durand's running game is based on deception. After giving up two big runs early, the Spartan defense pretty much silenced the Panther ground attack. Most of Durand's offensive plays in the second half were passes.

Durand scored two minutes into the game, but the Spartans matched that touchdown in the final minute of the opening quarter. The Spartans didn't play a perfect game on offense. They lined up offsides four times and were confused at times after Durand decided to use a 4-4 defense in an attempt to corral the Spartans' running game.

The Spartans finally got into scoring position late in the first quarter. After a touchdown run by Haydon Dvorak was called back on a penalty, the Spartans went to the air. Ryan Himes ran a post pattern and quarterback Tyler Ledbeter found him in the open for an 18-yard touchdown strike.

Late in the second quarter the Spartans began figuring out the Durand defense. Ledbeter made a nice cut upfield to gain 37 yards and Dvorak gained 26 yards on a pitchout. Ledbeter scored on the following play, spinning away from a Durand tackler to score from 14 yards out. That put Somerset in front 14-6 heading into halftime.

The Spartan defense came up with one of the key stands of the game in the middle of the third quarter. The Spartans fumbled the ball away at their own 31. The Spartans limited Durand to a field goal out of that possession, which moved the score to 14-9.

Durand drove deep into Spartan territory early in the fourth quarter. Durand then fumbled, with the Spartans recovering at their own 12-yard line.

The Spartans were left with a fourth-and-one on their next possession on their own 21. Larson said the coaches planned to punt, but the players changed his mind.

"A couple kids said 'if we can't get a yard and a half, we don't deserve to be conference champions,'" Larson said.

The Spartans ran a blast up the middle that got the first down and allowed them to burn up a couple more minutes before being forced to punt.

After the punt, Ledbeter made the defensive play that capped the game. From his safety position he read that Durand was throwing an out pattern. He cut in front of the receiver for the interception, then made a couple nice moves on would-be tacklers to go 65 yards for the touchdown. That put the Spartans in front 22-9 with 1:29 left in the game.

In the final minute Durand drove the length of the field against soft Spartan pass coverage for the final score.

While the Spartans possess a share of the conference title, their work is far from done. They play at winless Osceola this Friday. A win would give the Spartans the outright MBC title. Of equal importance to the coaches is the need to set a tone for how the Spartans are going to perform in the WIAA playoffs, which start the following weekend.

"We need to get ourselves ready for the playoffs. We need to go up there and play well," Larson said.

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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