O-Line helps Spartans begin with a win
A workman-like effort from the offensive line lifted Sparta to a big nonconference win its football opener at Sparta Memorial Field Friday night.
The Spartans jumped out to an early lead and held off a pesky Black River Falls team to score a 28-13 victory over the Tigers.
The win was the second straight in a season opener for Sparta, which defeated the Tigers 40-6 when the two teams met in Black River Falls to kick off last season.
“I don’t know if the win was what’s important – a win is always nice – but with our young kids, the biggest thing is believing in each other and battling through the tough times,” said Sparta head coach John Blaha.
He said playing well, playing hard and coming together as a group is important for his young team.
“We made lots of errors, but we were able to overcome them,” offered Blaha. “That’s how you keep a program growing and I think the kids did a pretty good job of that.”
The Spartans racked up 370 yards on offense, including 310 on the ground.
Sophomore quarterback Cole Wisniewski rushed for 143 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries and looked poised as he guided the Spartan offense on four scoring drives.
Blaha was pleased with the performance of his young quarterback, but was quick to praise his offensive line.
“Our offensive line graded out higher than is has in the first game of the season. We had an 80 percent average, which is much higher than we’ve had in past openers,” he said. Cole did a nice job, but give the line credit for giving him and our backs the holes to run through.”
Senior Greg Jacobs and juniors Bryce Edwards and Rrig Falmngar had success running the ball as well.
Jacobs picked up 68 yards and a touchdown on five carries, Edwards carried the ball a dozen times for 67 yards and a touchdown and Falmngar had three carries for 27 yards and a score.
Sparta looked sharp from the start, putting together a four-play, 54-yard scoring drive on its first possession of the game.
Jacobs broke free for a 41-yard touchdown run to cap off the scoring drive and Edwards booted the extra point to put Sparta on top 7-0.
After forcing a Black River Falls punt in the Tigers first possession of the game, Sparta struck again when Edwards hit paydirt from six yards out to cap off a seven-play, 41-yard scoring drive.
Wisniewski hit Keegan Savor on an 18-yard pass for a big first down in a third-and-nine situation to keep the Sparta drive alive.
Falmngar tacked on a 20-yard touchdown run midway through the second quarter and Edwards made his third straight extra point to extend the Spartan advantage to 21-0.
Sparta’s defense held Black River Falls in check for most of the first half, but the Tigers scored late in the second quarter when Corbin Sigler turned in a short completion from Elliot Bird into a 77-yard touchdown with less than a minute left on the clock to cut the deficit to 21-7 at the half.
After a scoreless third quarter, the Tigers put some pressure on when Ryan Engebretson scored on a 10-yard run to cut the deficit to 21-13.
Sparta put the game away later in the frame, when Wisniewski found the end zone on a 12-yard run and Edwards tacked on the extra point to put Sparta on top for good at 28-13.
Blaha said the letdown late in the first half that led to the Tigers first score of the game was a good lesson for his young team.
“Black River did a nice job of executing and we missed a tackle and took a couple of bad angles,” he said. “It was an important lesson to learn and I thought we responded pretty well in the second half.”
The Spartan gridders are back in action Friday, when they travel to Westby to take on the Norsemen in a 4 p.m. nonconference contest.