Improvement the main goal of NYM football
Upsala-Swanville and New York Mills have met four times in the past seven seasons. The Eagles have defeated the Patriots once, 21-13, in 2007. The two teams meet up Thursday, Aug. 30 in Swanville to open the 2012-13 campaign.
"They're good," Eagles Head Coach Matt Radniecki said. "They've got a lot of kids back and we do too. It's a tough opener."
The Eagles return 10 offensive starters and nine on defense.
In last year's opener, a battle of offensive futility ended in a field goal for the only score of the game.
With 20 seconds remaining in the game, Brock Cichon again lined up for a field goal -- this time from 27 yards -- and his attempt was good ending a defensive battle of turnovers. His kick was the only score in a 3-0 victory for Upsala/Swanville.
The two teams combined for six turnovers in the second half. The Patriots fumbled the ball away into the end zone with four minutes remaining in the game.
Cichon lined up to boot a 32-yard field goal at the halftime buzzer only to watch it clang off the middle of the crossbar sending the game to the break tied at zero.
The loss was one of eight tough defeats for New York Mills last season.
The Eagles need wins this season, plain and simple. Last season they finished 1-8, bounced rudely from the first round of the playoffs by No. 6 Browerville 33-0.
The lone victory was at home over West Central Area by a score of 20-0 on Homecoming night.
New York Mills is 2-23 in the last 25 games.
Upsala/Swanville returns their entire backfield and 15 seniors.
"It's going to be a match up of how much better did they get and how much better did we get," Radniecki said.
Offensively, New York Mills returns Charlie Peeters at quarterback, along with bruising runner Tyler Patron at fullback.
Patron will be joined by his brother Adam in the backfield.
Shane Novak was last year's tailback, but has been moved this season to the slot to take advantage of his speed and get him away from having to try to run through the line.
"With those returning starters, the key to our season is how much better did we get. Peeters has a lot of talent. This year, he needs to be a player that makes a difference. He needs to elevate his game."
Our first two games are tough and on the road. We could be 0-2, 2-0. If we were 1-1 I'd be happy. Then we have a stretch of four at home. Those are teams that on paper, I feel we are just as good as them."
The line is where the Eagles are short.
"Our goal is to find five guys who can block. That's going to be the challenge. We're trying to get our best 11 kids on the field."
Noah Pesola and Taylor Ericksrud will provide an offensive punch to the passing game. Pesola's height makes him a target at tight end and Ericksrud has a nose for the ball and speed to be a steady target for Peeters.
The passing game will need to be successful to compliment the pounding running game of the Patron brothers.
"We're trying to spread the field a little bit."
Sophomore Damon Tumberg will be counted on as a key underclassmen needed to contribute to the team's success.
"He's a good athlete and has good hands. We need to get him out on the field."
The Eagles have a simple outlook to the season and that is to improve and collect some W's.
"I really feel think .500 is a realistic goal. My goal is to be .500 and get a home playoff game. With that in mind, from a coaching standpoint, you always want to be better, but that would really be a step forward getting a playoff win."
8/30 7:00 PM @ Upsala/Swanville (6AA)
9/7 7:00 PM @ Osakis (6AA)
9/14 7:00 PM Royalton (6A)
9/21 7:00 PM Kerkhoven-M-S H.S.
9/28 6:00 PM @ West Central Area (6A)
10/5 7:00 PM Ottertail Central Bulldogs (6A)
10/12 7:00 PM @ Browerville H.S. (6A)
10/18 3:30 PM Barnesville (8AA)