Spartans overcome miscues, outlast Westby 35-25
Dominance in the trenches made up for some special teams miscues and lifted Sparta to a 35-25 nonconference victory on the gridiron at Westby Friday night.
The Spartans controlled the line of scrimmage all night, picking up nearly 400 yards on the ground, but a short punt and a pair of long punt returns kept Westby within striking distance.
“I was pleased with the offense and pleased with the defense, so that leaves one area – special teams,” said Spartan head coach Adam Dow. “It was pretty obvious and it’s definitely an area where we need to improve. When you have a stat line of 514 to 191 yards, you know you made some mistakes that allowed them to get back into the game.”
Sparta took control early, scoring on a 56-yard touchdown run by Nick Kast and a 50-yard TD pass from Cole Wisniewski to Corbin Hauser to forge a 14-0 lead in the opening quarter.
After a pair of costly penalties backed Sparta into the shadow of its own goal line, a 19-yard punt put the Westby offense in business late in the opening quarter.
The Norsemen would capitalize early in the second quarter on a one-yard TD run by Austin Mowrey to cut the Sparta lead to 14-7.
The Spartans would answer on the ensuing possession, when Wisniewski capped off a 61-yard scoring drive with a 20-yard touchdown run midway through the frame.
Chris Jacobs booted his third straight extra point to put Sparta on top 21-7.
Mowrey found the end zone again for Westby with just under five minutes remaining in the first half, scoring on a nine-yard run to cut the deficit to 21-13 at the break.
A two-yard run by Wisniewski opened up the second half scoring and extended the Spartan advantage to 28-13, but Mowrey would return the ensuing kickoff 75 yards for a score that allowed the Norsemen to pull within nine points of the lead at 28-19.
Sparta’s next drive would stall at its own 29-yard line, and Westby’s Davontae Spears followed with a big punt return to the Spartan 19 to set up another score for the Norsemen.
Mowrey capped off the short Westby drive with a two-yard TD run, as the Norsemen pulled to within a field goal of the lead at 28-25 heading into the final quarter.
Sparta missed a field goal attempt late in the third quarter, but scored on its first drive of the fourth quarter on a 40-yard run by Wisniewski to open up a 35-25 lead.
Westby missed on a 25-yard field goal attempt midway through the fourth quarter, Sparta’s offensive line took over, marching 50 yards in 12 plays into Westby territory, before running out the clock to preserve the win.
Dow said the late drive to end the game was huge for his team.
“There has been a flip in mentality. The kids believe they can finish a ball game,” he offered.
“Before that last drive, I looked at the line and said we were either going to finish with a touchdown or run the clock out,” continued Dow. “That victory formation was a nice thing to see at the end.”
Sparta dominated in total yards, outgaining the Norsemen 514 to 191 on offense.
The Spartans finished with 386 yards on the ground and 128 through the air, while Westby had just 82 yards rushing and 109 yards passing.
Marcus Cox was the workhorse for Sparta on the ground, grinding his way to 213 yards on 29 carries, most of which came in the second half.
“We got a little dinged up, so we asked some guys to step in, and they stepped up,” offered Dow. “Marcus put on a punishing display, picking up five to 10 yards a pop, and the line up front did a great job of opening up holes.”
Wisniewski added 108 yards and three TDs on a dozen carried, while Kast carried the ball three times for 56 yards and a score.
Wisniewski completed six of 13 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown, including one to Hauser for 56 yards and a TD.
Haydn Guns had two catches for 39 yards, while Abe Edie added a pair of receptions for 23 yards.