Whether you ask coaches from Upsala/Swanville, Royalton or Browerville, all three teams will say the same thing: Both divisions of this season’s Prairie Conference will be up for grabs.
“I really don’t think there is a favorite. Us, Royalton and Browerville all could win (their divisions) real easy,” said Upsala/Swanville coach Jay Loven, whose team plays in the North Division. “It will be a wide-open conference, like it typically is.”
Royalton coach Jamie Morford, whose team plays in the South, thinks the conference will be as tough as it has been in years past.
“I think it’s always a wide-open conference. I like to say that we are one of the toughest Class A conferences, just because week in and week out, we beat the snot out of each other,” he said. “There is us, Upsala/Swanville and Browerville. I think all three of the teams will be right up there.”
Although Wayne Petermeier thinks that his South Division Browerville Tigers will be right there in the thick of things, he believes Royalton and Upsala/Swanville will be the two teams to beat in the conference.
“The conference will be very tight,” he said. “I believe that Royalton and Upsala/Swanville will be the top teams, but if we stay healthy, minimize the injuries and win a few games here and there, we will be just fine. We just want to be able to get into the mix by the end of the season.”
Looking for revenge
After a 16-13 loss to Browerville in the Section 6A semifinals a season ago, Royalton is looking forward to its 2014 rematch.
“That’s a game the kids have told me that they are already circling on their calendars,” Morford said. “After the loss last year in sections, I think they are looking for some payback.”
Royalton will gets its chance at revenge when the two teams face each other at 7 p.m. on Oct. 10 in Browerville.
The Royals, who have had their last three seasons end in front of their hometown crowd, have a road record of 10-2 and a home record of 9-7 over that span.
So Morford is somewhat relieved that this year’s matchup won’t be played in Royalton.
“In my first two years, we lost in the first round of the playoffs at home, then last year, we make it to the second round and then lose to Browerville,” said Morford, who is in his fourth season at the school. “I don’t know, I’m thinking we just won’t play at home or maybe will do something different.”
Recreating a rivalry
After a two-year break, Upsala/Swanville and Royalton renewed their rivalry last season. And both teams are eager to recreate the bitter rivalry that the two teams had in the past.
“We made it a stronger rivalry game now. We are trying to build back that rivalry that we had lost for a couple of years,” Morford said.
The two teams will again play for the Morrison County Milk Jug, which was created before last season. The Milk Jug will be awarded to the winning team who will get to keep the traveling jug at its school until the next season’s matchup.
The game also will be Upsala/Swanville’s homecoming game — an afternoon game in Upsala.
Although he doesn’t like to get caught up in rivalries, Loven enjoys playing Royalton, mostly because it results in his team performing at its highest level.
“You usually can expect the kids to have their best game,” he said. “It’s always a close game, because we are always so evenly matched.
“I don’t think there has been a game that has been decided by more than seven points.
“I don’t get into the rivalries, but for the kids, that game is a big rivalry for them.”
Upsala/Swanville senior quarterback Tyler Evans is eagerly awaiting the matchup.
“It’s always a lot of fun playing against them,” he said. “Our schools are only about 20 miles apart, and we know each other pretty well. It’s always a big rivalry.”
With key players returning on both teams, Patriots junior running back/linebacker Kyle Lange says this rivalry tops all others.
“It’s going to be a big game. You always expect it to be a tough game,” Lange said.
“I think that this is one of the biggest rivalries in the state.”
Follow Mitchell Hansen on Twitter @M_Hansen13.
2014 composite schedule
(all games at 7 p.m. unless noted)
Aug. 28 — Ottertail Central at Upsala/Swanville; Long Prairie-Grey Eagle at Royalton; New York Mills at United North Central; Prairie Valley at Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg.
Aug. 29 — Osakis at Browerville; West Central Area at Wadena-Deer Creek.
Sep. 5 — Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg at Long Prairie-Grey Eagle; West Central Area at Osakis; Browerville at Prairie Valley; United North Central at Royalton; Wadena-Deer Creek at Upsala/Swanville; Ottertail Central at New York Mills.
Sep. 12 — Browerville at West Central Area; Long Prairie-Grey Eagle at Ottertail Central; Royalton at Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg; Prairie Valley at Osakis; New York Mills at Upsala/Swanville; United North Central at Wadena-Deer Creek.
Sep. 19 — Upsala/Swanville at Browerville; Prairie Valley at Long Prairie-Grey Eagle; West Central Area at Royalton; Osakis at Wadena-Deer Creek; Ottertail Central at United North Central; Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg at New York Mills.
Sep. 26 — Royalton at Upsala/Swanville, 3 p.m.; Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg at West Central, 6 p.m.; Osakis at Ottertail Central; New York Mills at Browerville; Long Prairie-Grey Eagle at United North Central; Wadena-Deer Creek at Prairie Valley.
Oct. 3 — Browerville at Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg; Upsala/Swanville at West Central Area; United North Central at Osakis; New York Mills at Royalton; Long Prairie-Grey Eagle at Wadena-Deer Creek; Ottertail Central at Prairie Valley.
Oct. 10 — Royalton at Browerville; Upsala/Swanville at Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg; Osakis at Long Prairie-Grey Eagle; West Central Area at New York Mills; Prairie Valley at United North Central; Wadena-Deer Creek at Ottertail Central.
Oct. 15 — Royalton at Prairie Valley; Browerville at Long Prairie-Grey Eagle; Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg at Osakis; United North Central at Upsala/Swanville; Ottertail Central at West Central Area.
Oct. 16 — New York Mills vs. Wadena-Deer Creek at Fargodome.
2013 Prairie standings
United N. Central…….3-3…..4-6….168…260
Otter Tail Central…….6-0…..9-2…..418…109
New York Mills……….2-4….4-5…..137…159