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Spartans show many things in first two games

Somerset’s Will Piletich (13) runs the ball in the fourth quarter of the Spartans' loss in Superior on Friday night. Jed Carlson /

The first two games of the 2017 football season have taught us three things about the Somerset football team.

First, the Spartans have a tremendous offense.

Second, the Spartan defense needs work. Lots and lots and lots of work.

Third, there isn't an ounce of "give up" in this year's Spartans. Somerset trailed by 30 points in the second quarter of Friday's game at Superior. Instead of playing dead, the Somerset squad fought back fiercely. They cut the margin to five points with three minutes remaining in the game. Somerset lost the game 62-50, but the game showed there is reason for optimism in Somerset this season.

While the Spartan coaches weren't happy about giving up 62 points, Somerset coach Bruce Larson said Superior may be the most talented team Somerset faces this season, especially at the ball-handling positions.

"The quarterback was very talented, the running back was extremely talented. The Plunkett kid (Max) is 6-4 and can run and jump. Their offensive line was huge. They had a nice setup offensively," Larson said.

The Somerset defense wasn't totally at fault for giving up the 62 points. The Spartan special teams struggled in several areas. Somerset gave up a kickoff return touchdown and Superior was able to recover an onside kick in Friday's games and nearly grabbed another.

Somerset actually finished with more total offense in Friday's game. Somerset finished the night with 456 yards of offense, compared to 441 for Superior. Somerset's running game was sharp, producing 401 yards. That was led by junior fullback Jack Peterson with 197. Quarterbacks Will Piletich and Bennett Baillargeon combined for 177 yards. Piletich also completed 4-5 pass attempts for 55 yards.

Coach Larson went down all the positions on the offensive line, saying how well each of the linemen played. He saved his highest praise for senior Peter Lepper.

"Pete Lepper just demolished guys," Larson said.

Superior had its defense set up to specifically prevent Somerset from running the ball to the outside. That was fine with the Spartans. They were able to run effectively between the tackles. Somerset's blocking was also better on the interior than it was on the outside.

For the shortcomings Somerset showed on defense, Larson said the coaches are working to find solutions. But he said that with effort like the team gave at Superior, progress should continue.

"I thought our kids played extremely hard. It was a really gritty effort," Larson said, saying he thought Superior was getting frustrated by Somerset's refusal to roll over.

The schedule doesn't get any easier as the Spartans step into their Middle Border Conference schedule this Friday. Somerset will play at Osceola in the MBC opener. Osceola hasn't lost a conference game since Oct. 17, 2014.

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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