Young Patriots have some lofty goals

Young Patriots have some lofty goals

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Young Patriots have some lofty goals

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SWANVILLE

If you’re looking for for a team full of grizzled gridiron veterans, the Upsala/Swanville Patriots aren’t it.

The team graduated 15 seniors from last season’s Section 6-2A runner-up team (that finished 9-2) and return just three starters – senior running back Mitch Lange, senior offensive guard Andrew Vodak and sophomore outside linebacker Kyle Lange.

Those who drive past the Patriots’ field without stopping however will be missing out on a team that, while short on experience, has plenty of potential, a strong worth ethic and a noticeable hunger to bring the program to new heights.

“We’ve got some growing pains because we do have basically 19 out of 22 spots to fill. (However) we’ve got some talented youth,” head coach Jay Loven said. “The work ethic is great and we can build with that.”

Mitch Lange rushed 213 times for 1,448 yards and 24 touchdowns while also tallying 104 tackles, three sacks and five fumbles as an inside linebacker in the team’s 4-4 scheme. His brother Kyle Lange started most of the season as a freshman outside linebacker. He finished with 39 tackles, three interceptions and three fumbles. The brothers will be looked at as leaders on this year’s squad.

“We’ve been working hard, probably that hardest we’ve ever worked,” Mitch Lange said. “When you have 15 seniors everybody is a leader. This year, kids will look up to you more and your word means a lot more.”

Despite being only a sophomore, Kyle Lange said he embraces the challenge of stepping into a leadership role on this year’s team.

“You’ve got to share your experience … you’ve got to let them know what could be coming. If they’re not in the right spot, move ’em around, you’ve just got to help out,” he said.

After going 5-4 in 2011 and 9-2 in 2012 while competing in Class 2A, the Patriots are back in Class A after a Minnesota State High School League reclassification. In the 2012 playoffs, Upsala/Swanville knocked off No. 1 seed Crosby-Ironton in the opening round and Osakis in the semifinals before being shutout by Holdingford for the second year in a row.

This year’s team, after having been among the smallest programs in Class 2A, feels that it can mix it up with just about anybody.

“After the (Crosby-Ironton) game, they said that was the hardest they’d ever been hit before,” Mitch Lange said.

“I think it’s just proof that anybody can beat anybody. Just because you’re the underdog doesn’t matter.”

Having Holdingford, which outscored the Patriots 62-0 the last two meetings, out of the way might make could make things easier for Upsala-Swanville, but Loven said his team’s work ethic will determine how the season goes, not it’s schedule.

“A lot of coaches try to blow smoke, but we do feel that we’ve got the talent level to compete, to get back to the finals of the section tournament,” Loven said.

“We just have to believe and teach them the fundamentals.”

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