Somerset, New Richmond (WQOW) -- Somerset is looking to repeat as the Middle Border Conference champion, while New Richmond is looking to be a contender in the race.
The Spartans' streak of WIAA playoff appearances goes back to 2002. Somerset has made four trips to the State Finals in that span, which includes a double-overtime loss in the Division 4 state title game last season.
The Spartans return seven offensive and seven defensive starters from that team. Players and coaches say they're motivated by the sting of losing in the state finals.
"I think that's driven everybody," says Somerset head coach Bruce Larson, "that's been the motivating factor that is cemented in the back of a lot of kids minds. It's something that they want to try to go back and make right."
"I'm being completely honest when I say this, it's driven every single summer workout that I've done," says Spartans senior lineman Reggie Larson, "it's all I've thought about every single day lying in my bed, so it feels good to get back out here."
Bruce Larson says he likes the approach of his team after a few weeks of practice.
'I like their attitude, I like their work ethic," says Larson, "they like to have fun together, but they like to come up here and work hard. When that stuff happens, it really makes a guy's job pretty easy. So far it's just been an awful lot of fun."
Somerset advanced to the 2011 WIAA State Finals by beating Bloomer in a Level 4 matchup. The Spartans kick off the 2012 season by visiting the Blackhawks on Friday, August 24.
New Richmond has made three straight trips to the WIAA football playoffs. Last year, the Tigers finished 4-3 in the Middle Border, 4-6 overall. Tigers head coach Jason Eckert says New Richmond will be relying heavily on underclassmen this season.
"Our seniors have really done a good job of working with our younger kids," Eckert says, "this year we're going to be playing a lot of sophomores, playing a lot of juniors. And even though they got a lot of playing time last year, they didn't get a significant amount. So we're still spending a lot of time teaching."
Despite the youthful nature of his team, Eckert thinks the Tigers can contend in the MBC.
"If we stay healthy, I think we can battle for the top of that conference," Eckert says, "if we get a couple key injuries, we'll drop towards the middle. But I like the guys that we have. They put in a lot of hard work this summer and I foresee us battling at that top of that conference."
The Tigers kick off the 2012 season on Friday, August 24, when they travel to River Falls.
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