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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The good news is the St. Croix Central cross country teams put together second and third place finishes in their 11-team home invitational. The unfortunate news is that Central senior Liv Moll was unable to complete the race. Even without Moll, the Central girls were able to take second place among a field of strong teams. The Central boys also faced a quality group of opponents and took third place.
The effects of the team-wide illness were still evident when the New Richmond football team returned to the field on Friday, Sept. 1. The Tigers built a 25-6 lead, but the effects of the illness began to show as the Tigers tired in the second half, seeing their lead fade to 25-20 in the fourth quarter against Baldwin-Woodville. But in the final seven minutes of the game the Tigers found a new level of strength. In that span they scored three touchdowns to put away the Blackhawks, 47-20. The game was the Middle Border Conference opener for both teams.
"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.
Members of the Somerset cross country teams were jumping around like they'd won the meet following the St. Croix Central Invitational Thursday, Aug. 31. And in ways, they had. After not being competitive as a team for several years, new additions and major improvements have made the Spartans relevant. Finishes in the middle of the pack were big news for the Somerset program. The Somerset boys tied for sixth place in the 11-team meet, while the Somerset girls finished in seventh place in their half of the meet, one point behind sixth-place Durand.
Ellsworth was reputed to have a high-powered passing game. The St. Croix Central football defense shot down that reputation last Friday. In the 2017 Middle Border Conference opener last Friday, Central took charge early and never let go, defeating Ellsworth 24-6. This game was supposed to be a test of the Central pass defense. If it was, Central's defense passed with flying colors. Ellsworth was limited to three pass completions in the game and none of the Ellsworth receivers had more than one reception.
Facing rivals New Richmond and Osceola last week exposed that the Somerset boys soccer team is a work in progress, and the team is at the early edge of that progress spectrum. The Spartans played well for a half when they hosted New Richmond last Tuesday. New Richmond pulled away in the second half when the Spartans tried to work in young players, resulting in a 7-0 final score. In Thursday's game under the lights at Osceola, the Spartans were hoping to be more competitive, but they suffered a 3-0 loss to the Chieftains.
The youngest team in the area this fall might be the New Richmond volleyball team. With two seniors and two juniors in the entire program, the Tigers will be leaning heavily this season on their sophomore class.
The New Richmond football team looked strong at times during Friday's football game against Baldwin-Woodville. And there were a couple stretches where the Tigers looked like a team that forfeited its previous game because of a team-wide illness wave. In the end, the Tigers scored 22 points in the final seven minutes to pull away for a 47-20 win over the Blackhawks at the New Richmond Middle School field.
Over the past two seasons, the St. Croix Central volleyball team was one of the youngest teams in the Middle Border Conference. But through those seasons, the Panthers were learning and growing. Most of the other teams were hit hard by graduation from last year's team, while Central brings back nearly its entire lineup. It's a roster filled with seniors and juniors and it's a group with high expectations. "Their goal is to win conference," said fourth year Central coach Mindy Widiker.
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.