WESTBY — Heading into a matchup against a team with a very similar style, the Sparta High School football team and its coach, John Blaha, knew they were in for a defensive battle on the road against the Westby Norsemen.
How right they were.
It was the defensive units that stole the show on Friday afternoon, but a savvy special teams play by the Spartans was the catalyst that propelled them to a 14-0 nonconference win.
Sparta starts the season 2-0 for the second straight year.
After a scoreless first half, Blaha wasn’t happy with his team’s performance in the opening 24 minutes. He simply expected more from his team.
“We had a mediocre half and we played bad,” Blaha said. “Their attitude and body language wasn’t very good. We needed a couple of guys to step up and make plays, needed our seniors to step up and they did. I thought their attitude was better in the second half.”
The Spartans got a spark after Greg Jacobs picked up a big third down on a knifing run through the Norsemen (1-1) defense. That would later set up a 46-yard touchdown run from sophomore quarterback Cole Wisniewski that gave the Spartans a 7-0 lead. Wisniewski finished with 112 yards on 20 carries.
“As a sophomore, he has surprised me,” Blaha said of his young quarterback, “But he put in the work in the offseason and during the summer to earn it.
“We were able to get some nice blocking and Cole made a real nice read on the play.”
The Spartans added onto their lead when Bryce Edwards returned a blocked punt 30 yards for a touchdown. The extra point made it 14-0.
After coming back to defeat Darlington 15-14 on a last-second field goal a week ago, the Norsemen couldn’t replicate that magic this time around. Westby managed just 188 yards of total offense against Sparta. Quarterback Alex Gluch struggled, going 7-for-29 with two interceptions and just 88 yards through the air. The run game didn’t help either, totaling 100 yards on 34 carries — a mere 3.4 yards per carry.
“Both teams run very similar offensive styles,” Blaha said. “So the option for either team wasn’t really fooling anyone. We knew coming in it would be a grinder.
“It came down to guys making plays and we were able to make just enough of them.”