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Football: Spartans control the clock, but not the scoreboard

Somerset quarterback Bennett Baillargeon leaps in excitement as he crosses the goal line for the touchdown that gave Somerset a 16-14 lead late in the first half of Friday's game. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia

Somerset's football team ran 84 offensive plays on Friday, compared to 22 for New Richmond.

Time of possession is a key measurement in Somerset's ball control offense. But controlling the clock isn't necessarily winning the game. Despite the positive steps the Spartans took on Friday, they gave up several big plays that allowed New Richmond to take a 34-16 win.

The loss drops Somerset to 0-6 for the season.

Somerset is officially eliminated from contention of reaching the WIAA playoffs with this loss, dropping to 0-4 in the Middle Border Conference. Two of Somerset's remaining three opponents, Amery and Baldwin-Woodville, also lost Friday to drop to 0-4. Somerset will play at Amery this Friday.

Three plays were really the undoing of the Spartans. They surrendered touchdown runs of 49 and 70 yards to New Richmond quarterback Mikah Kier. But the play that may have done the most damage was the 83-yard kickoff return touchdown by New Richmond's Blake Kretovics with 1:09 left in the first half. Somerset had just taken a 16-14 lead on an incredible run by senior quarterback Bennett Baillargeon. The play not only gave the Spartans the lead, but a clear dose of momentum.

Much of the first half was played the way the Spartans wanted it played. Somerset opened the game with an 86-yard scoring drive that lasted more than eight minutes. Baillargeon finished the drive with a seven-yard run.

But within 90 seconds, New Richmond matched that touchdown. Somerset then tried to turn bad field position into success. Taking the ball at their own 10, the Spartans drove to the Tiger 29, mostly behind powerful charges from fullback Jack Peterson. When the drive stalled, the Tigers struck immediately back. They needed just two plays to score. The first was a 22-yard pass. The second was a 49-yard run by quarterback Mikah Kier, where nearly everyone on the Spartan defense bit on the fake handoff.

The Spartans came right back with an 80-yard drive, and this time they did finish it. It looked like they wouldn't, when penalties put them in a fourth-and-19 predicament. But Baillargeon came through with an incredible run, breaking several tackles and leaping in glee as he crossed the goal line.

Somerset took the 16-14 lead, only to have all its momentum wiped out on the ensuing kickoff. New Richmond's Blake Kretovics returned the kick 83 yards for the score and Somerset's lead was gone.

Any doubt of that was covered on the first play from scrimmage in the second half. Kier broke free on a 70-yard touchdown run. Somerset's 16-14 lead had quickly been reversed to a 27-16 deficit.

Despite the loss, the Spartan coaches sounded like they found a game the team could build upon. The offense is the source of the most optimism, rolling up 403 yards against a New Richmond defense that has performed well this season.

With Peterson's 166 yards on Friday, he has gone over the 1,000-yard milestone for the season. After six games, Peterson has gained 1,006 yards.

What most bothered the coaches from this game was the performance of the special teams. The kickoff return touchdown was the fourth allowed by the Spartans in the past five games. And the Spartan kickoff returns consistently left the team with poor field position.

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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