Patriots set sights on return to state

Patriots set sights on return to state

For the Upsala/Swanville Area Patriots, this season has one main goal: Make it back to the state tournament.

After finishing the 2013 season with a record of 4-1 in the Prairie Conference and 10-2 overall, as well as reaching the Class A state tournament, senior Tyler Evans thinks that this year’s Upsala/Swanville Area team has enough experience and talent to return.

“We bring back quite a bit of experience to this year’s squad,” said the 5-foot-10, 160-pound quarterback. “I think we have a good chance at being a successful team if we put in the work.”

One question mark heading into the year is who would replace the graduated Mitch Lange, who ran for 3,473 yards and scored 48 touchdowns in his junior and senior seasons combined.

Head coach Jay Loven expects Mitch’s younger brother Kyle to step into his spot and help the offense flourish.

“Even though we don’t have Mitch, we expect the same from our offense this year. And we believe that his brother Kyle will fill in for him well.”

Kyle, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound junior running back/linebacker, has high hopes for this year’s team.

“Our expectations are still high. We have a few guys to replace, but we still have most of our team returning,” he said.

“We really want to make it to state and win it this year.”

Although the players have their eyes on going deep in the postseason, Loven — who is entering his 11th season at the helm — doesn’t like expressing his expectations and wants to make sure his team takes it game-by-game in the season ahead.

“Last year is last year. That’s in the past now. I’ve seen many teams make it to the state tournament and come back with the same team the next year, but don’t prepare themselves right,” he said. “Although we have our goals, we don’t like putting any expectations on our players, because I believe that puts too much heat on them.

“We are going to take this year one game at a time.”

USA, which lost to the 2013 Class A state champion Mahnomen 28-12 in the first round of the state tournament, will have 15 of the 22 starters returning to the team.

Even with the first-round loss at state, Loven believes that the experience his team gained will help them tremendously.

“We’ve been in the section championship game two or three other times, without being able to break that ceiling and advancing farther.” he said. “I think last year will really benefit us because the kids now know what it takes to go deep in the playoffs and how hard it is to reach state. With having 15 of our starters back, I think all of us know what it will take to get back.”

“A lot of hard work will have to be put in and we can’t take anything for granted. We have to work hard in order to get back to where we were,” Evans said.

If the Upsala/Swanville Area Patriots do just that, Evans’ goals — in his eyes — are rather simple.

“We want to win the conference, win the state championship and go an undefeated 14-0.”