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Somerset football playing for share of MBC title on Friday

Somerset halfback Tate Pitcher (38) broke this kickoff return out to midfield to give the Spartans good field position to start the second half on Friday. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia

The Somerset Spartans are playing for a share of the Middle Border Conference football championship this Friday.

That’s quite a turnabout after the team started the season losing its first two games. Since then, the Spartans have gone 5-1, with their only loss coming in a 42-40 shootout at New Richmond.

The Spartans will need their best effort of the season to get a share of the MBC title. This Friday the Spartans play at St. Croix Central against the undefeated Panthers.

The opportunity to win a title almost didn’t happen for the Spartans. Last Friday, they nearly blew an 18-0 lead, hanging on to defeat Baldwin-Woodville 18-15.

Throughout the night, the Spartan offense struggled. Somerset was able to drive 62 yards for a score in the first quarter. The lead expanded to 12-0 when quarterback Will Piletich found tight end Nick Bushinger open behind the B-W secondary for a 16-yard touchdown with 7:38 left in the second quarter.

The second half opened with Somerset sophomore Tate Pitcher returning the kickoff into B-W territory. With a facemask penalty tacked on, the ball was placed at the Blackhawk 32. On the eighth play of the possession, Jack Peterson scored on a six-yard run, making the score 18-0.

The Spartans had the momentum, but that abruptly changed on the ensuing kickoff. Andrew Klopp fielded the kickoff and ran straight through the heart of the Spartan coverage for a 90-yard touchdown. The momentum did a 180-degree swing in the Hawks’ direction and the Spartans couldn’t find a way to get it back.

B-W tried a field goal midway through the fourth quarter, but the holder couldn’t handle the rain slickened ball. Somerset fumbled the ball back to the Blackhawks with 3:48 left. This time, the Hawks capitalized, with Alex Bishop taking a swing pass 40 yards for the touchdown to cut the lead to 18-15.

Runs of 14 and 13 yards by Peterson allowed the Spartans to run out the clock. The Spartans escaped with the win, but there was a sense on the Somerset sideline that they were fortunate to win.

“We were pretty sloppy on offense, assignment wise. Our perimeter blocking was woefully inadequate,” said Somerset coach Bruce Larson. “We survived. That’s what we did.”

While the Spartans weren’t sharp on offense or special teams, the team’s defensive effort saved the night.

“Defensively it was probably our best effort. We held them to 106 yards on offense,” Larson said.

Larson said the Spartans know they must play significantly better if they are going to compete with a St. Croix Central team that has overpowered every other MBC team this season.

“It’ll come down to us getting right offensively,” Larson predicted. “Your room for error is very little.”

Larson said the Spartan defense must contain Central’s big-play ability, because the Panthers can break big plays by running inside or outside and by passing. If that can be done, it can be turned into a ball-control game, which is where the Spartans have their best chance of winning, he said.

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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