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Kasen Swenson selected to play in Shrine Bowl


Gator senior quarterback Kasen Swenson (#11) ran with the ball during the Gators’ home loss on November 6, 2020 to the Win-E-Mac Patriots. Swenson will get to end his high school football career at West Fargo High School for the 2021 North Dakota Shrine Bowl on June 19. The nine-man game Swenson is playing in will kick off at 7 pm that day. (photo by Val Truscinski)

Gator senior quarterback Kasen Swenson and his Gator Football teammates had achieved what they had set out to do this past football season— advance to Section 8A Nine-Man championship game at the FargoDome in Fargo, N.D. Despite that, he and the Gators would not step foot into the FargoDome for this game.

The Gators claimed a 30-16 section semifinal victory in Grygla over the Goodridge/Grygla-Gatzke Chargers on November 20, but knew going in that its season would be over that night regardless.

Following the Governor’s COVID guidance at that time, fall sports came to end on that November 20 night. Instead of heading to the FargoDome, the Gators would settle for co-section champion honors with the Stephen-Argyle Central Storm. It was the end of not only the Gator season, but Swenson’s high school football career.

Or so he thought at the time.

Swenson will get to end his high school football career in Fargo, specifically West Fargo High School for the 2021 North Dakota Shrine Bowl on June 19. The nine-man game Swenson is playing in will kick off at 7 pm.

Swenson received word of this opportunity in late February while still in the middle of his final high school basketball season. Swenson was excited about finding out he had earned this honor.

He had learned about this opportunity at halftime of the Gators’ regular season road game versus the Stephen-Argyle Storm, watching some of their previous players get presented with Shrine Bowl jerseys.

“When I got accepted (to the Shrine Bowl)… it was all surreal,” Swenson said. “And I figured that I worked hard enough to get on it and I can’t wait to play in it.”

Gator Head Football Coach John Lee explained how his program had received a message from the Shrine Bowl, asking if the team had any possible candidates for the event, something he did more research on. He submitted an application for Swenson some time in January.

Coach Lee found three primary goals of the event, one to raise money for the Shriner’s Hospital, two, get football players in the game who have strong character, and, three, honor individuals good at playing football with an all-star game.

“We submitted an application because I truly feel that… he meets all of those qualifications,” Coach Lee said. “And so I thought, well, we’ll just give it a shot and see.”

Swenson’s dad and a Gator Assistant Football Coach, Jeramy Swenson, asked Coach Lee if he had heard anything back and Coach Lee said he hadn’t heard anything about it for awhile. Soon after that, they found out that he gotten into the game.

“I was really excited for him,” Coach Lee said, “and even for our program too to have a quality leader like that.”

Swenson lettered in football beginning in ninth grade— always being that player, Coach Lee explained, who would always sprint out onto the field for the kickoff when Coach Lee said he didn’t have enough players out there.

“If we were short— it didn’t matter what position— if I ever said we need a guy… he was already running out on the field,” Coach Lee said. “So, you know he was involved, you know he was listening, and paying attention along the way.”

At that time, Coach Lee explained how Swenson was still developing his athletic ability, but then in his sophomore season, he began to play more during a time when the Gator program was not experiencing as much success, finishing that season with a 1-8 record.

Then, in his junior season— when the Gators made the transition back to nine-man football— the team finished with a 6-4 record, falling in the section semifinals in overtime. That season he had an opportunity to be a leader, being chosen as a captain. Swenson considered the seniors on last season’s team, such as Andy Dostal and Kyle Stauffenecker, as strong leaders.

“(He had the chance to) be a leader without having to be the leader,” Coach Lee said. “And it was just nice to see the change then from that year, where it was… Andy (Dostal) and Zach’s (Evans) team to now it went to this is Kasen’s team and this is Dawson’s (Beito) team.”

Swenson grew so much, Coach Lee said, and had a strong command of the offense.

“A lot of times I would just let him call plays too,” Coach Lee said.

He considered Swenson’s final season to be his best one by far. He watched him get much stronger physically before this season, investing the time into it.

“I think he saw what the weight room can do in one year for an Andy Dostal (a senior the season before) and then he invested that time and he really benefited from it,” Coach Lee said. “Seldom did he ever get tackled by just one guy… He is always running around making plays happen and shedding blocks.”

In his final season— one covering eight games— Swenson threw for 892 passing yards and 10 touchdown. He also rushed for five touchdowns. Between his rushing, passing, and receiving, he ended the season with 1,070 yards, equaling nearly 134 yards per game.

He thought about continuing to play football in college after Mayville State University (N.D.) talked with him about it. Instead, following his Badger High School graduation, he is going to Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Wadena to enter into the school’s Electrical Linemen program.

So, as it stands, his playing career will end in Fargo.

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