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Somerset-Durand to clash Friday for Middle Border Conference football title

Somerset senior Robbie Lang (right) turns the corner as he heads up the Spartan sideline for an 87-yard kickoff return touchdown to start the second half of last Friday's win over Baldwin-Woodville.1 / 2
Somerset head coach Bruce Larson diagrams a play for junior Gaelin Elmore during Friday's win over Baldwin-Woodville.2 / 2

The Middle Border Conference football championship will be decided this Friday.

Somerset and Durand, both undefeated this season, will meet at Durand, with the winner locking up a share of the 2012 MBC championship. Somerset is seeking its sixth straight conference title.

Somerset is coming off a 41-0 win over Baldwin-Woodville last Friday, while Durand needed a late surge to overcome Prescott, 21-7.

Somerset has won all five of its MBC contests by at least 21 points, so the Spartan coaches aren't sure how the team will react to the challenge of facing an undefeated opponent. Somerset coach Bruce Larson said the team is coming off one of its most complete performances of the season in the win over Baldwin-Woodville.

Larson referred to this Friday's clash as a "T-Shirt Game." The motto on the back of Somerset's shirts this season is "Finish It." This game is pivotal for more than just the conference title. The Spartans are trying to secure the top seed in their WIAA tournament bracket. A loss on Friday would seriously jeopardize the Spartans' chances of getting that top seed.

Getting the top seed is critical in the revamped WIAA playoffs this season. The format was changed so the top seed can play at home in the first three rounds of the playoffs.

With the Spartans winning by large margins against struggling opponents, they have been able to prepare for Durand for some time. Durand is led by Jake Weber, the leading passer in the conference and also a top ball carrier. Larson said the Spartans will be concentrating their defense on containing Weber and his favorite receiver, Drew Minturn.

Other than one or two hiccups, the Spartans played a complete game against Baldwin-Woodville with as few flaws as they've had all season.

The ground game had the blend the Spartans usually show when they're running at high efficiency. Quarterback Tyler Ledbeter gained 114 yards on nine carries. Halfback Gabe Flandrick is breaking more big plays when he gets to the edge. He gained 103 yards on three carries Friday.

Both Somerset fullbacks rushed for more than 80 yards. Senior Vern Breault carried for 83 yards. When the reserves entered the game late in the third quarter, the offense continued to click, led by sophomore Max Praschak's 84 rushing yards.

The individual who had the biggest night was senior halfback Robbie Lang, whose big play ability was on full display. In the final seconds of the first quarter, Lang caught a pass over the middle and used his sprinter's speed to turn it into a 61-yard touchdown that put the Spartans ahead 20-0.

Lang opened the second half with the biggest play of the night, returning a kickoff down the Spartan sideline 87 yards for a touchdown.

Lang's big plays also carried over to his work on defense. The Spartans have been looking to force more turnovers and Lang produced, intercepting two B-W passes. The Spartan secondary was sharp on Friday, playing tight, aggressive coverage that limited the Blackhawks to two receptions in nine pass attempts.

The Spartans showed better discipline in this game, cutting their penalty total down to five for the night. The penalties were still costly, including wiping out a touchdown pass from Ledbeter to Gaelin Elmore on the Spartans' first possession of the night. The Spartans also had a punt blocked in the second half and they gave up several lengthy runs on B-W's favorite counter-trey play.

Whether it was after the blocked punt or the long runs, the Spartan defense toughened near its own goal line, stopping the Blackhawks on downs each time.

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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