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Somerset football tops rival Osceola in MBC football opener

Somerset football coach Bruce Larson scoffed at the notion that Friday's game between the Spartans and the Osceola Chieftains was for the Middle Border Conference title.

The Spartans won the MBC opener 30-14 on Friday. The game was played at St. Croix Falls' historic field because construction of Osceola's new artificial turf field has not been completed.

Osceola was picked by many as the favorite for the MBC title heading into the season. So while Friday's win was definitely significant for the defending state champion Spartans, Larson said the win has to be kept in context.

"We are by no means a good team yet," Larson said. "We're showing progress. To me, that's the best part."

One of the goals for Friday's game in Somerset's plan was diversifying its offense. They did that in their first play from scrimmage and it paid immediate dividends. Osceola got the ball first Friday and the Chieftains' first possession ended with a fumble. On the next play, Somerset got the ball to halfback Aaron Moore, who zipped down the sideline for a 34-yard touchdown.

The lead was extended to 16-0 early in the second quarter. Somerset junior fullback Max Praschak ran over three Osceola defenders as he barged down the field for a 64-yard touchdown.

In several ways, the Chieftains tried traditional Somerset strategies against the Spartans. The Chieftains played much more of a ball-control style of offense out of its option system. Somerset has a long history of frequently going for the first down on fourth down and Osceola did it several times on Friday, being successful a couple times.

The Chieftains did get one big play, a long play late in the second quarter, that led to the Chiefs' opening touchdown with 14 seconds left in the first half.

Defense and special teams set up the Spartans' third touchdown. Punter Dalton Johnston's punt was downed at the Osceola 2-yard line. On the next play, Praschak blitzed up the middle, forcing a high-arcing pass. Somerset defensive back Heaven Hunt made a leaping catch in front of the Chieftain receiver, racing down the sideline 24 yards for the interception return touchdown. Jon Sullivan made a similar leaping interception in the second quarter.

Osceola scored early in the fourth quarter. The Spartans answered with another touchdown less than a minute later. Quarterback Reed Baillargeon found tight end Gaelin Elmore open running down the seam, and they combined for a 36-yard touchdown pass. It was the Spartans' only pass completion of the night.

Baillargeon and Adam Marty are splitting time at quarterback this season. Larson said he plays them depending on who he feels is best for the situation.

"They're both great kids. They understand my reasons," Larson said.

Osceola got its final two points in the closing moments of the game. Somerset had some confusion on a punt attempt, that led to an errant snap. Johnston chased the ball down, then ran out of the end zone instead of giving the Chieftains a chance at a touchdown.

Larson said the special teams and defense were factors that worked strongly in the Spartans' favor on Friday. Osceola had kick return touchdowns in each of its first two games, but the Somerset kick coverage didn't allow any lengthy returns Friday. The coaches were also pleased that the Spartan defense limited Osceola to 95 yards on the ground.

The Spartans will play another 3-0 team this Friday when they get a visit from Prescott. The Cards narrowly dodged their first loss last Friday, scoring on the game's final play to beat Amery 27-26. Larson said the plan for this week is to keep improving, especially on offense.

"We can't afford a week where we regress," Larson said. "We need to continue to get better."

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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