Believe it! ROCORI Wins – Faces Bemidji For The State 4A Championship!
About 6 weeks ago, I commented during a ROCORI broadcast that this might be the best Spartans football team in the school's history. That's right, the best team ever. I got a lot of criticism for that, with many people just assuming that I was hyping up the Spartans, because of my closeness to the program.
I wonder if the doubters believe the 'hype', now?
The ROCORI Spartans beat Hill-Murray on Saturday, in a very exciting and entertaining football game, 37-35, to advance to the state championship game. They will play the undefeated Bemidji Lumberjacks, who were super impressive themselves, this weekend in beating Mankato West. The Spartans will be the decided underdog for a third straight week - but that's a role that Coach Mike Rowe has come to embrace - and take full advantage of.
ROCORI has not gotten much publicity, or respect, from the twin cities media. But Hill-Murray Coach Brooks Bollinger made a comment after the game that we should all keep in mind this week. He said;
"Those guys (ROCORI) are absolutely just as good as any team we've played all year. We weren't perfect today - but they were the better team and deserved the win. That offense, with that quarterback, is very hard to slow down."
That offense is lead by senior QB Nate Meyer, who has quickly gone from being basically unknown outside the Central Lakes Conference, to being the talk of the state. Meyer, who is also a standout basketball player, has emerged in his third year as the varsity QB, becoming one of the better football players in all of Minnesota, period. He can run, he can throw, he is a fantastic leader, and his football IQ is off the charts. He is the best player for the Spartans, on offense and defense.
ROCORI has a lot of very good players, though. The Spartans rely heavily on Meyer, but they are in no way a one-man team. Meyer has a lot of help, and most of that help is guys that are also seniors. Sam Moriarity is the primary ball carrier, and along with Meyer, and junior Mac Mueller, they make the running game effective. Sean Terres and Christian Pedroza give the Spartans two dangerous, and sure-handed receivers - and the offensive line has been terrific all year.
Defensively, the Spartans have a tendency to bend, but not break. They are very stingy at giving up points. Up front, Bill Morris, Alex Tray, and Corey Asfeld, all seniors, have been great all year. The heart of the "D", though, might just be LB Evan Guggenberger, who has made several big plays this season, and is seemingly always around the football. Junior Adam Dingmann is also unblockable at times, and will be one of the state's top returning defensive players next year.
Make no mistake about it - ROCORI will have it's hands full with Bemidji. But nobody ever said being the best team in the state would be easy. But the Spartans are confident, athletic, and smart - and Coach Rowe and his staff have pressed all the right buttons so far this year.
On Saturday, Mac Mueller scored three first half TD's, to give ROCORI a 20-14 halftime lead. Pedroza extended the lead to 23-14 with a FG in the third quarter, but the Pioneers scored quickly to make the score 23-21. ROCORI got the momentum back, and seemed on their way to victory, after a long TD pass to Drew Vocelka, and a Moriarity TD run, made the score 37-21 Spartans, in the middle of the 4th quarter. But that's when things got a little dicey.
Hill-Murray drove down and scored quickly, converted the 2 point try, and the score was 37-29. Mueller, having the game of his life, fumbled the ensuing kickoff, however, and the Pioneers scored again, making it 37-35. The 2 point attempt pass was completed, but luckily for ROCORI, Jones Green could not get his feet down in the end zone, and the try failed.
ROCORI recovered the on-side kick and ran as much time off the clock as possible - but the Pioneers were to get the ball one more time - with a chance to break the hearts of the Spartans faithful. But Nate Meyer (who else would it be?) saved the day with an interception, and the Spartans ran out the clock.
Win or lose this Saturday - this ROCORI team has forever stamped themselves into the history books, and more importantly, into the hearts of everyone in the ROCORI community. It's a remarkable story, especially after a (2-7) season last year.
But getting there cannot be enough. We have a chance to win the first state football title in school history. It will be a day that none of the; players, coaches, parents, students, faculty, etc., will ever forget.
So let's win it. Whatever it takes.
The 4A State Football Championship Game, ROCORI vs. Bemidji, can be heard "live" this Saturday afternoon. Pregame at 2:45, kickoff at 3pm - on AM 1240 WJON - and at www.wjon.com.
Say it with me, "GO SPARTANS"!