The last time Royalton and Upsala-Swanville faced off was the fall of 2010 in a tight game that saw the Patriots win 18-12.
The season before that, the Patriots downed the Royals 7-6 in the regular season before falling to Royalton 28-26 in the opening round of the Section 6A playoffs. In 2008, Upsala-Swanville beat Royalton — which eventually made it to the Class A state Championship game — 23-22 in the regular season.
Games between the two schools are hard-fought contests that rarely result in blowouts, but there is no shortage of hard feelings. Friends line up against one another and fans flock to the stands to make sure they get the best seat in the house for all of the carnage.
Or at least they did, before the series was put on ice the past two years.
This season the Royalton/Upsala-Swanville rivalry lives on, and it could prove to be one of the highlights in an interesting year for the Prairie Conference.
“When I first got here in 2001, I had people coming up to me saying, ‘Holy cow, you better win that game, I’ve got 100 bucks on that game.’ It was so intense. It was easily three-deep around the entire field,” Royalton head coach Jamie Morford said. “It’s been like that every game we’ve ever played.”
Besides bragging rights, the teams will be battling for the Morrison County Milk Jug, a new traveling trophy that will be branded with the score and the winner of each contest.
It wasn’t the old rivalry that brought the teams back together, however.
“It was a matter of logistics,” Patriots head coach Jay Loven said. “It wasn’t a matter of us getting it back on for a rivalry, it was a conference decision.”
The season has barely started, but it’s already a contest players are are looking forward to.
“We’ve been really missing that (game). It’s always a good, high-intensity game,” Royalton fullback/linebacker Tony Gadacz said.
The schools combine for wrestling directly following football season.
But Gadacz, who wrestles on the team, isn’t worried about roughing up any potential teammates.
“We can’t think about that,” he said.
“If someone gets (knocked around), oops, oh well,” Gadacz said with a grin.
After a second consecutive 6-3 season, including a 3-2 conference record in the Prairie South, Royalton is looking to move up the rungs of the conference ladder.
To do so, they’ll need to stay healthy and find a way past the conference’s perennial powerhouse, Browerville.
“Our goal every year is to play in November. Honestly, the last two years we’ve been disappointed at losing in the first round,” Morford said.
In 2012, Browerville dropped its first two games, including a 22-15 loss to Upsala/Swanville, before going on a roll that brought them to the Class A state tournament.
The Tigers fell 35-20 to Dawson Boyd in the state quarterfinals. Browerville has made it to the Section 6A finals every year since the 2009 season.
Morford also noted that Ottertail Central, which downed the Royals 36-20 last season, also fields tough teams on a regular basis.
For Upsala/Swanville, which moves down to Class A this season, this year will be about sustaining the momentum gained from last year’s run to the Section 6-2A championship game, where the team fell to Holdingford — a Class 2A team that the Patriots will no longer have to worry about.
On their run, the fourth-seeded Patriots pushed past top-seeded Crosby-Ironton and proved that they could compete with bigger schools, a confidence booster for a team that is attempting to replace 15 seniors.
The path to the Prairie North conference crown seems to run through Barnesville, which has been 10-0 in conference play the past two years and has tallied a 32-3 record since making it to the Class A title game in 2010.
“(Barnesville) will be the hands-down favorite to win it again, until someone knocks them off,” Loven said. “Our schedule this year is going to be awfully tough.”