Repeat success will be welcome by Lake Park-Audubon
Can lightning strike twice?
For the Lake Park-Audubon football team, they hope it can.
The Raiders are ready to heighten the odds of repeating as Section 6-1A champions with a host of talent and experience coming back from the Class 1A state semifinalist squad of last year.
LP-A was a quiet state qualifier after a dominating regular season, keyed by a stingy defense which gave up a state-best 6.2 points per game.
But after making it to the state semifinals in the Metrodome, the Raiders will no longer be sneaking up on anyone.
"There's a confidence there, not a cockiness," said LP-A head coach Jed Swegarden. "The players know they can't be satisfied with what happened last year. But they are setting some higher goals this year."
The Raiders return eight players off that stout defense, which was fast, quick and physical.
The Ware twins -- Bryan and Danny -- return at the outside linebacker positions, where they helped contain any outside rushing attack with their quick feet.
Manning the inside linebacker slot is senior Caleb Lunde, with a host of returners back on the defensive line.
"Our defense carried us early last year and with a number of kids back on the defensive line and eight returning, I think we have just as much speed as last year," Swegarden said.
LP-A's leading rusher and leader Kenyon O'Brien has moved on after graduation, but there are several seniors primed to fill in that hole in the backfield.
Senior Brian Gordon had a solid year at quarterback, running an efficient offense which didn't shoot itself in the foot with turnovers.
After "his best offseason yet", Gordon enters his senior campaign with more confidence and ready to take on a larger leadership role.
"He's been more vocal and more confident running the offense," Swegarden added.
This season, LP-A will have a different array of runners with a mix of speed and size.
Returning are seniors Bobby Lalonde and Bryan Ware, who each rushed the ball effectively as juniors.
Senior Nick Hanson will enter the fray in the backfield, while Jon Nelson will see some action, as well.
"Things maybe a bit different this year with our size of backs, but Ware still has that breakaway speed to take it all the way," Swegarden said.
If there is a question mark on the team in experience, it is the offensive line.
"We lost some key seniors on the line," Swegarden included. "We'll need some guys to step up there."
Bringing some seasoning on the O-line is senior Brandon Schoeberl, with the rest of the positions up in the air for the first game on the schedule.
Gordon will have a pair of reliable hands to throw to, as well as some height, in senior Jesse Wixo and Lunde.
Wixo proved to be an effective red zone target with his ability to go up and get a lofted pass in the end zone in 2008.
"I think we are going to have some more scoring capabilities in the red zone," the LP-A coach commented.
There were a few goals which were not accomplished in last year's magical season, like going undefeated and winning the conference.
But a return trip to the Class 1A state playoffs is obviously still at the top.
One hurdle LP-A will have is in the section, where Royalton and Barnesville has been added.
Royalton was the team which ended the Raider's run through the state with a 42-20 win in the semifinals.
"It's going to be a battle," Swegarden concluded about the season.