New Richmond vs. Somerset: a growing football rivalry

There are many great rivalries in western Wisconsin. River Falls and Hudson have a dandy. Durand and Mondovi live for battling each other. So do Amery and Osceola, or Baldwin-Woodville and St. Croix Central.
In the past 10 years, one of the rivalries that has grown in ferocity is the one between New Richmond and Somerset. And the bitterness in this rivalry reaches its apex when the two meet in football every fall. The Tigers and Spartans will hold their 2011 meeting this Friday at Seibel Field in Somerset.
Somerset has held the edge over New Richmond since the Spartans joined the Middle Border Conference in 2002. In fact, the Spartans have had the edge on all of their MBC opponents since being moved up to the MBC. Including playoffs, Somerset has won more than 90 games since 2002. Only two other programs, Durand and Osceola, have won more than 50 in that time, and they barely qualify. New Richmond has won 32 games in that span.
Friday’s game shapes up as one of the most even battles in years between the Tigers and Spartans. The Tigers look like they’re getting momentum after blasting Prescott on Friday. You can bet Somerset will do all it can to take away New Richmond’s sweeps and force the Tigers to find other ways to gain their yards.
Somerset’s offense is the biggest unknown of the game. The Spartans will be in the second game with their new backfield alignment, putting Tyler Ledbeter at quarterback, while shifting Robbie Flom from signal caller to slotback.
The two head coaches magnify the opposite extremes in coaching styles. Somerset coach Bruce Larson is a fiery, demonstrative motivator. Through the years he has been masterful in using the fact that New Richmond is the largest school in the conference to sell his players on the underdog role. New Richmond coach Jason Eckert would be one of the least likely coaches to be called “fiery.” Eckert is low-key to the hilt, with a patient, analytic style.
It sounds like Friday’s conditions should be ideal for football, with cool weather in the forecast. Hopefully, the cooler weather this week will rid the Somerset field of the mosquitos. The mosquitos were a major nuisance in the Spartans’ first two home games.

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