Defense was clearly the focus when the New Richmond and Somerset boys squared off in their Middle Border Conference game on the Tigers’ new turf on Thursday.
New Richmond remained unbeaten in the MBC by defeating the Spartans, 5-0.
This game was an excellent battle, remaining scoreless until nearly 22 minutes of play was completed. Several of New Richmond’s goals were the result of fine passing combinations and the first may have been the best. Brandon Dennis possessed the ball along the left sideline, sending an accurate pass to Jack Stuedemann in the center of the offensive zone. Stuedemann quickly forwarded the ball to AJ Johnson, who snapped a shot past Somerset keeper Devon Fullerton for the goal.
The second Tiger goal showed how important defense was in this game. Tiger sophomore Aidan Westmoreland put on relentless pressure, forcing a Somerset defender to turn over the ball. Westmoreland charged the goal, squeezing a shot just inside the near post to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead at the 29:40 mark.
The score stayed 2-0 until nine minutes into the second half. Michael Benedict scored from a scrum in front of the Somerset net, with Joe Casey getting the assist.
As the heat of the day bore down on the players, the energy level lagged in the second half. The Tigers were able to score their final two goals on give-and-go plays. Johnson scored both goals, with Stuedemann assisting on the first and Jovani Perez-Sanchez assisting on the second.
New Richmond coach Darian Blattner said he expected Somerset to put up a defensive challenge. Somerset had Brody Harris shadow Johnson wherever he went on the field. Blattner said the coaches moved Johnson to the outside at halftime, and when the Spartans adjusted, they moved him again.
“If teams want to man-mark (Johnson), we can move him to the outside. We have other guys who can score,” Blattner said.
Blattner said he was impressed with how Somerset improved since the first time the two teams met on Sept. 6.
While the offense got the goals, the Tiger defense put together an excellent performance in limiting Somerset’s scoring chances.
“That’s a big part for us,” Blattner said of the defense. “If our back four are strong, it allows our front guys to take more chances.”
The Tigers, now 8-1, face another stiff challenge when they host River Falls at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
Somerset coach Bill Roll said he was pleased with the intensity the Spartans showed at the start of this game. When the teams met two weeks ago, New Richmond scored four goals in the first 10 minutes of the game. This was Somerset’s fourth game in six days, and with two starters sidelined by injuries, the team’s depth was put to a severe test.
“New Richmond is a very good team with a lot more depth than any other team we’ll see this year,” Roll said.
The Spartans did get a win Tuesday, defeating Baldwin-Woodville, 3-1. Kaine Lee, Logan Giossi and Brody Harris scored for the Spartans in that win.
The next game for Somerset arrives on Monday when they host Osceola. The next day, Somerset will play at Barron.