Embracing a team philosophy predicated on speed, if not overwhelming size, Royalton ran to a record of 7-3 a year ago.
Looking back, though, it is hard not to wonder what might have been.
A last-minute loss to rival Upsala-Swanville Area (USA) in the regular season finale cost the Royals the top seed in the Section 6A tournament, where they then fell in a 16-13 nailbiter to Browerville.
“We expect to grow as a team from that disappointing loss and try to get ourselves back to the point of contention in our section,” Royalton head coach Jamie Morford said. “We expect great games with USA, and last year was no different. We once again hope to continue our renewed rivalry with them and expect to have another barn burner in Upsala with the Morrison County Milk Jug on the line.”
The Royals appear primed for another solid fall, led by senior third-year starting quarterback Brady Moulzolf.
“Brady Moulzolf has matured into a great leader over the last couple years for us,” Morford said. “This season we expect Brady to be a game manager and really take control of this team. Brady is able to make big plays on both sides of the ball and we believe he will be able to do this for us throughout the season.”
The Royals will have to replace one of their top other playmakers, though, in graduated running back Tony Gadacz, but have several candidates vying to take his carries.
“Tony Gadacz has been a huge part of our team the last couple years, but just like every other team, we lose good football players to graduation every year,” Morford said. “This year to fill his void we have senior fullback Kyle Billmeyer, Moulzolf and senior wingback Austin Popp that we expect to take on a big part of the workload this season.”
Having those types of veterans to fill in the gaps, as well as build off of their own success, will be a key factor in Royalton’s favor, Morford said.
“We expect our strength to really be our experience that we will be bringing back,” he said. “We have eight returning seniors on this team that will all get substantial playing time. Also, our team speed and strength has increased from last year. We are very happy with how our kids have worked this offseason to prepare for the season.”
Returning starters for the Royals are seniors Moulzolf (quarterback/safety), Billmeyer (fullback/linebacker), Popp (running back/linebacker), Trent Cimenski (running back/defensive back), Jake Wentland (offensive line/defensive line), Jordon Smieja (offensive line/defensive line) and John Jabas (offensive line/defensive line) and juniors Clinton Gadacz (offensive line/defensive line) and Alex Patton (offensive line/linebacker).
New players looking to contribute will be senior Matt Fountain (offensive line/defensive line), juniors Tyler Hellickson (tight end/linebacker), Matt Daleidan (running back/linebacker), Brad Kroll (running back/linebacker) and Monty Sieben (offensive line/defensive line) and sophomore Austin Zapzalka (offensive line/defensive line).
Royalton is scheduled to open the season at home against Long Prairie-Grey Eagle, Thursday.