SWANVILLE – The Upsala/Swanville Area Patriots have some key holes to fill from last year’s team, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
Quarterback Tyler Evans and wide receiver Jordan Sales were among the nine Patriots players that graduated a season ago. Evans led the team in passing, throwing for 1,617 yards and 22 touchdowns in all 12 games. Sales led the team in receiving, with 680 yards and 13 touchdowns in 10 games.
Two players who will be stepping into those roles this season is junior quarterback Myron Ripplinger and senior wide receiver Carter Loven.
“It’s going to be tough to fill the spot, but I’m going to do all that I can do to help this team win,” Ripplinger said. “I want to be able to push the team as hard as I can and I want to get them going.”
Loven, a 6-foot-1 receiver who will likely be one of the top targets in the offense, comes into his final season with a good amount of experience. He was second to Sales in receiving his junior season with 490 yards and five touchdowns in all 12 games.
Ripplinger, however, comes in with minimal experience behind center. The 5-7 quarterback went 1-for-4 with seven yards passing as a backup to Evans his sophomore season.
Patriots head coach Jay Loven sees a lot of promising similarities between Ripplinger this year and Evans last season.
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“Myron is a quick runner and a very good thrower. He is more of a soft-spoken guy, but he knows he is the one that will be taking control of our team like Tyler did,” said Jay Loven, who is entering his 12th season at the helm of the Patriots. “He’s learning the position, and we know that it’s not going to be the perfect transition right away, but he will step in and be an awfully good quarterback for us this year.”
Even with the lack of experience that his team might have at quarterback, Carter Loven has a lot of confidence in Ripplinger’s abilities to lead the team.
“I think that Myron knows that he has some pretty big shoes to fill in taking over for Tyler at quarterback,” Carter Loven said. “But I think he is ready to take on that challenge.”
Upsala/Swanville Area may have new faces on both sides of the ball this season, but don’t call this team young.
“We have six starters back on offense and five starters back on defense, so it’s just about filling in the different spots,” Jay Loven said. “We have some experienced guys that were backups last year, and they know what we expect of them.”
Trying for a three-peat
Upsala/Swanville Area has won the Section 6A title the last two seasons to reach the Class A state tournament, where the Patriots saw themselves fall in the first round of both appearances.
This season, they aim for the same. This time, with the hopes of making it farther.
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“We are going to try and do it again,” said senior running back Kyle Lange. “Two years ago, nobody thought we would do well, but it ended up being one of our more successful years. Hopefully, we are able to put that kind of season together again this year.”
In order to break out of the first round of the state tournament, Carter Loven thinks this year’s team needs to take advantage of the opponent early on in the game.
“Last year we would tend to not have as good of intensity as we should have and we were lazy early on,” he said. “If we can work on that, I think that we will be able to make it as far this season as we have in the past.”
Constant improvement has always been a goal for the Upsala/Swanville Area Patriots, and it all begins 7 p.m. Saturday in Lake Park against Lake Park-Audubon.
“We always like to do better and go father than we did the year before,” Jay Loven said. “But with that said, you can’t do that unless you take it one game at a time, and that’s what we are going to do.”
Follow Mitchell Hansen on Twitter @M_Hansen13.