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Somerset football faces Spooner this Saturday after manhandling Unity

Somerset coach Bruce Larson (center) makes a point while speaking with his offensive unit during a recent Spartan game.

Somerset's annual march into the WIAA state football playoffs took its first step forward on Friday, when the Spartans manhandled Unity 54-14 in the opening round of Division 4 playoff action.

The Spartans will play in Level 2 of the WIAA playoffs this Saturday. The Spartans will play at Spooner at 1 p.m. on Saturday. Spooner advanced to the second round by defeating St. Croix Falls 28-12 last Saturday.

Friday's win raises the Spartans' season record to 9-1. Spooner enters Saturday's game with an 8-2 record. If the Spartans win on Saturday, they would play at home the following weekend in the third round of the playoffs.

Somerset coach Bruce Larson said Spooner presents a major challenge for the Spartans. He said the Rails have a top level quarterback, halfback and receiver. In Spooner's win over St. Croix Falls, the Rails used numerous screen passes and draw plays to keep the Saint defense off balance.

"We're going to have to tackle well," Larson said. "They throw a lot of looks at you to try to get you to line up wrong."

Larson said the biggest challenge for the Spartans is to clean up their own play. The Spartans turned the ball over four times against Unity on three fumbles and an interception.

"We got away with (the four turnovers). That's not a good thing. That's a false sense of security," Larson said.

When the Spartans weren't turning the ball over against Unity, they were unstoppable. The Spartans never had to punt. The Spartans had scoring drives of 80, 30 and 90 yards in the first half. Their other three first half possessions ended in turnovers.

Larson thought the Spartans were going through the motions in the first half. At halftime, he let the team know his feelings.

"I blasted them at halftime. I didn't think the fur was flying in the first half," Larson said.

There has never been any doubt about Larson's ability to get his players' attention. It worked again this time. The Spartans responded by scoring 30 points in the third quarter. In one seven-play span, the Spartans scored three times.

The Spartan offense was hugely productive when it held onto the ball. The Spartans gained 439 yards on 49 plays, averaging just under nine yards per play. Four Spartan backs had runs of 23 yards or longer. Halfback Robbie Flom rushed three times for 67 yards. He was even better as a receiver, catching three passes from quarterback Tyler Ledbeter for 92 yards. Flom completed his game with a 67-yard interception return for a touchdown with 19 seconds left in the third quarter.

Junior fullback Vern Breault led the Spartans with 122 yards rushing on 22 carries.

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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