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0-2? Nope, Spartans are 0-0 and ready to start MBC play Friday at 6 p.m.

Somerset fullback Jack Peterson blasts through the middle of the Superior defense for a first down during the first half of Friday's game. Tom Lindfors / RiverTown Multimedia

“Does anybody remember the Philadelphia Eagles pre-season record last year?”

That was the question Somerset football coach Bruce Larson threw out as the Spartans began to assemble for their weekly Saturday morning meeting.

The point was made. The Eagles went on to win the Super Bowl last winter and their pre-season games had no bearing on those results.

The Spartans are treating their 2018 non-conference games the same way. The losses to Superior and Bloomer have no bearing on the Spartans’ ultimate goal of making the WIAA playoffs at the end of the season.

Don’t think the Spartans’ non-conference games weren’t important. Larson says the Spartans play the toughest non-conference schedule of any Middle Border Conference team and he said the Spartans grew a great deal from those games.

On Friday, the Spartans lost to Superior 41-20. Somerset led 14-7 in the second quarter and 14-13 at halftime. In the second half, the Spartans wore down against an opponent that was able to platoon. Superior has an enrollment of 1,305, compared to Somerset’s enrollment of 463.

The performance of the first half, plus some of the happenings from the second half, had the Somerset coaching staff highly encouraged. Somerset starts its Middle Border Conference schedule at home this Friday. The task couldn’t be more difficult. Somerset will be facing an Osceola team that has won the past three MBC titles. Meanwhile, Somerset will be attempting to rebuild a home-field prowess that was the backbone of its success since the start of the 2000s. The start of the game has been moved up to 6 p.m. because of weather concerns.

“It’s a team we need to leapfrog to get where we want to be,” Larson said of Osceola. “A 1-0 start sets you up pretty well (in trying to reach the playoffs).”

Somerset had to adapt quickly at the start of Friday’s game. Superior has played the same 5-3 defense for years, according to Larson, so that’s what the Spartans practiced against. The coaches were shocked to see Superior come out in the same defense that Bloomer used against the Spartans the previous Friday.

Larson said the offense showed some savvy by quickly adjusting to the surprise from the Superior defense.

“Will (quarterback Will Piletich) played a very heady game. He distributed the ball pretty well,” Larson said.

Between Piletich, fullback Jack Peterson and halfback Tate Pitcher, the Spartans had a formidable running attack. Between them, they rushed for 276 yards, averaging 5.9 yards per carry.

“Our offensive line was one of the more encouraging things (from Friday’s game). They got movement up front. That was huge,” Larson said.

Peterson led the Spartans with 151 yards. He scored the first Somerset touchdown on a 35-yard run. He had another long run early in the second quarter, which set up his second touchdown of the night. That score put Somerset ahead 14-7.

Superior had some success offensively Friday. They completed five passes, but two came when Somerset defenders were in position but failed to knock the ball down. Coach Larson said the defense was in better position to make plays throughout this game.

“We’ve got to tackle better. It was better than last week, we’ve just got to finish the tackles,” he said.

For a team that was looking for progress after the opening loss to Bloomer, it sounds like that’s what the Spartans got.

“Our kids played hard. The effort was outstanding,” Larson said of the performance against Superior.

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 more than 30 years.

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