SCC football fights off Somerset, Sparta eliminates New Richmond
The season is over for the Somerset and New Richmond football teams, but the St. Croix Central football team has advanced to the third round of the WIAA Division 4 playoffs.
St. Croix Central and Somerset waged another of their playoff blockbusters and the hard hitting went from start to finish. It was Central that was able to come up with more big plays, on offense and defense, in defeating Somerset 21-7. St. Croix Central will play at home next Friday, Nov. 2, against Northwestern. This will be a battle of the top two seeds in the bracket. Northwestern defeated Baldwin-Woodville on Friday to advance.
New Richmond and Sparta were polar opposites in attack styles and Sparta’s big plays resulted in the Spartans knocking off the Tigers in Division 3 playoff action. Sparta was able to advance with a 33-14 win over the Tigers. Sparta, the seventh seed, will play at top-seeded Rice Lake next Friday. Rice Lake advanced with a 40-25 win over Onalaska.
The Panthers and Spartans have a tremendous history of hard-nosed battles and there were enough staggering hits in this game that it certainly maintains that tradition.
Central started quickly in the game, scoring on the opening possession. Keagen Berg carried on the first five plays of the game. That softened up the Spartan defense for fullback Ryan Larson. Larson bowled over three Somerset defenders on his way to a 45-yard touchdown, putting Central ahead with 3:24 played in the game.
Somerset answered with one of its finest drives of the season. The Spartans produced first downs on five straight plays. The fifth was a 13-yard touchdown run by Jack Peterson, who barreled over a Panther defender to reach the goal line. This made the score 7-7 and we weren’t halfway through the first quarter.
Central ate up most of the second quarter with a 14-play scoring drive. Larson finished the drive with 1:20 left on the clock. Central took the 14-7 lead into the halftime break.
The final touchdown of the game was the result of a remarkable play by Central quarterback Austin Kopacz. On a third down play, it appeared Somerset had Kopacz sacked. He spun out of the tackler’s grasp and rolled toward the right sideline. Central receiver Derek Myer had kept moving downfield and was wide open behind the Somerset defense. Kopacz heaved a pass downfield that Myer caught for a 72-yard touchdown.
One key difference in this game was Central’s passing success. The rushing yards were relatively even, with Central gaining 226 and Somerset 184. Central was able to gain 135 yards through the air. Somerset didn’t have any completions and two of the Spartan passes resulted in interceptions.
New Richmond’s inability to complete two golden scoring opportunities on its first two possessions was likely the decisive point in Friday’s game.
New Richmond took the deciding kickoff and drive to the Sparta 5-yard line, but the drive stalled there. Sparta immediately struck back with a long touchdown pass.
The next New Richmond drive had the same result, driving to the Sparta 5 before stalling. Sparta scored again early in the second quarter.
The Tigers got a break when they recovered a fumbled punt at the Sparta 25 with two minutes left in the half. The Tigers scored on a pass from Tim Salmon to Nolan Eckert, cutting Sparta’s lead to 13-6.
Sparta came up with big plays whenever needed. With nine seconds left in the half, Sparta scored on a 60-yard pass, making the score 20-6.
New Richmond scored the first touchdown of the second half on a short run. Again, Sparta answered. On the first play following the kickoff, Sparta scored on a 75-yard run. Sparta added a final touchdown with five minutes remaining in the game to make the score 33-14.
This ends New Richmond’s six-game win streak. The Tigers finish the season with a 6-5 record.