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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There's a great deal of anticipation surrounding the Somerset boys basketball team this season. By finishing 4-4 in their final eight games last season, the Spartans appeared to be a team on the verge of maturing into a contender in the Middle Border Conference this season. In their first outing of the 2011-12 season, the Spartans showed they are ready to live up to those expectations.
Six dual matches in the first three days of their season helped to get the Somerset team back in wrestling shape in a hurry. The Spartans began their season last Thursday, winning a Middle Border Conference dual match against Prescott, 44-27. The Spartans followed that up by wrestling five dual matches in a tournament at Glenwood City on Saturday. The Spartans won two of their five matches. The late run by the football team set the Spartans behind the clock in the wrestling season. There are 24 wrestlers out for the team, one of the highest numbers in decades.
With all the new players on the St. Croix Central girls basketball team, the first two games of the season were more like a fact-finding mission. So while the Panthers lost both of those games, they gave evidence that they are quickly progressing in the right direction. The Panthers lost their season opener at Ellsworth last Tuesday, 45-26. Two nights later they were nearly able to knock off Glenwood City, losing 39-36 in the Panthers' home opener. The Panthers are terribly young, with two seniors, Shelby Thomley and Shaylyn Lyksett.
In the frantic world of high school football, extra time is in short supply. So when special needs student Hunter Harstad decided he wanted to go out for the Somerset football team this fall, there were concerns about whether there would be ways to incorporate him into the football program. There were as many concerns whether the time needed for a student with Down syndrome would take away from time needed by the coaches to work with the rest of the players. The concerns were quickly put to rest. The coaches found a role for Harstad, as an assistant to the coaching staff.
After the New Richmond boys basketball team graduated nearly its entire roster last season, it might have been natural to assume the Tigers could suffer a dropoff this year. The first game of the season caused everyone thinking that way to change their minds. The Tigers put together an impressive season opening win on Saturday afternoon, taking down Eau Claire Memorial 47-42. Eau Claire Memorial scored the first two points of the game on Saturday, but that was the only lead the Old Abes would possess.
The state-wide respect for the New Richmond hockey program was clear when the Tigers were invited to play in the Red Flint River City Meltdown season-opening tournament in Eau Claire over the weekend. All four teams in the tournament were among the top 10 teams in the state in pre-season rankings and all four played in last season's WIAA state tournament. In the opening round of the tournament on Friday, the Tigers faced Notre Dame of Green Bay, the number one ranked team in the state. The Tigers led the game 2-1 until penalties turned the game in Notre Dame's favor.
Few people around the state believed that the Somerset football team had a prayer of winning in the WIAA Division 4 state championship game. When the Spartans took the field, they believed. And by the end of the game, they had converted many non-believers around the state. Somerset and Wrightstown waged one of the more memorable games in recent years in the WIAA state championships. Somerset and Wrightstown battled through regulation, and then two overtimes, before Wrightstown could stop the Spartans, 28-26.
The results from the Somerset School District community survey are out. Now it is up to the board of education to plan for the future of the school district based upon those results. The survey results were presented by Bill Foster of School Perceptions, the demographic company hired to perform the survey. The results were announced at a special school board meeting on Nov. 7. Much of the survey was based on planning for the future of the district.
Somerset and Wrightstown waged a battle in the WIAA Division 4 state football championship that will last forever in the memories involved in the game. The game stretched to overtime, then to a second overtime, before Wrightstown defeated the Spartans to earn the gold ball as state champions, 28-26. Somerset and Wrightstown both fought back from deficits in the second half. It appeared Somerset was in trouble when Wrightstown took a 12-6 lead early in the fourth quarter.
All season long, the Somerset football seniors have said they wanted to play to the last day possible in their final season. The only way that would be possible was to reach the WIAA state championship game. The Spartans accomplished that feat, winning a gritty defensive battle with Bloomer in the Division 4 state semifinal game, 18-13, on Friday in Chippewa Falls. The win propels the Spartans into the WIAA state championships this Thursday and Friday at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison. Somerset will battle Wrightstown in the Division 4 championship game, which will be played at 7 p.m.