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Penalties ruin Spartans' chances at Osceola

Somerset linebacker Jack Peterson (24) knocked Osceola running back Jack Feldt (14) out of bounds in the first half of the Chieftains home victory Friday night. Tom Lindfors / RiverTown Multimedia

"Self-inflicted" was the term Somerset football coach Bruce Larson continually used in describing the Spartans' 43-20 loss to Osceola in the opening round of the Middle Border Conference schedule Friday, Sept. 1.

It's easy to understand why Larson used that term. The Spartans moved the ball at will on offense, only to have a continuous stream of penalties be the main thing that stopped them from scoring on every possession. The Spartans committed 14 penalties on offense. The most aggravating part of the penalties was that nearly all of them were pre-snap, which the coaches correlated to the team's own mental mistakes.

The base of the entire Somerset scheme is to be able to move the ball consistently on offense. When the Spartans weren't committing penalties, that's what they did. Quarterback Will Piletich and fullback Jack Peterson combined for more than 200 yards rushing and halfback Roy Hale gained 42 yards on three carries. The Spartans averaged 5.2 yards per carry and they had more first downs than Osceola, so the team was doing some things well.

More often than not, it wasn't the Osceola defense that stopped Somerset's offense. It was the Spartans themselves.

"The penalties were staggering," Larson said. "Between penalties, we moved people. But (the penalties) take you out of any flow you can possibly have."

There were times the offense looked sharp. After trailing 21-0 at halftime, the Spartans opened the second half with a healthy scoring drive. Piletich did the most damage in the drive and Peterson finished it off with a 16-yard burst through a nice hole created by the left side of the offensive line.

Osceola came right back with a touchdown. The Chieftains then added a safety when Piletich was hit while trying a pitchout, with the Spartans covering the ball in their own end zone.

Trailing 30-6, the Spartans had a burst where they again looked good. When Piletich gets into the open field he can make tacklers miss, and that's what he did on a nice cutback run that produced a 16-yard touchdown.

The Spartans cut the lead to 30-20 moments later on what appeared to be a routine dive play. Peterson, who seems to make half or more of Somerset's tackles, stripped the ball out of the grasp of the running back in the pile. He scooped up the ball and ran 29 yards for the touchdown.

For the first time all night, Somerset appeared to have the momentum. But poor tackling and coverage on the ensuing kickoff ended that. Osceola's Tray Scott was able to return the kickoff up the sideline for a 95-yard touchdown and Somerset's faint hope of a win was snuffed out.

The loss at Osceola drops the Somerset record to 0-3 and 0-1 in the Middle Border Conference. The Spartan coaches said there is still much that can be gained this season and the team has got to play smarter to accomplish the goals that have been set. That begins this Friday, when the Spartans play at home against Prescott. Prescott won its opening MBC game last Friday by a 6-0 score over Amery.

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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