By PATRICK SLACK
They took awhile to get going.
But once the Patriots did, there was no chance of West Central Area stopping them.
Top-seeded Upsala-Swanville Area (USA) opened up what was just a touchdown differential at the break with a big second half, pulling away for a 34-0 home win in Tuesday’s opening round of the Section 6A playoffs.
The Patriots had some trouble getting going early on, being held off the board in the first quarter and only managing a 1-yard score by junior Aaron Ripplinger in the second to take a 7-0 lead into halftime.
But after watching West Central nearly even things up in the final minute of the second quarter, only for a touchdown to be negated by a penalty, USA came out with a renewed focus in the second half, receiving touchdowns from senior Mitch Lange, junior Jordan Sales, sophomore Kyle Lange and Ripplinger.
Mitch Lange carried the ball 25 times for 167 yards and Kyle Lange had nine rushes for 113 yards to shoulder the bulk of the USA offensive load.
Sales caught three passes for 31 yards from junior quarterback Tyler Evans, who completed 5-of-9 attempts.
Mitch Lange was also in on nine solo tackles while senior Shawn Urbanski, junior Chris George and Sales each recorded sacks to help the USA defense post a shutout.
USA overcame four lost fumbles in the slippery conditions, thanks in large part to being able to force six turnovers itself, including two interceptions by Kyle Lange and one apiece by junior Austin Johnson and sophomore Carter Loven.
Mitch Lange and junior Zachary Ainali each recovered fumbles.
USA will now take on fourth-seeded Pine River-Backus, Saturday at 6 p.m. in Swanville.
The Tigers defeated fifth-seeded Prairie Valley 36-24 in the first round.
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