MISSION ACCOMPLISHED: Spartans Win State Football Championship!
The ROCORI Spartans knew it wouldn't be easy. They were also well aware that most of the 'experts' picked Bemidji to beat them in Saturday's 4A Championship Game. And when the Lumberjacks took the opening drive down the field, and quickly scored the game's first touchdown, I'm sure those 'experts' assumed their prediction would be correct.
But I'm proud to say that I never had a doubt.
That was the only time all afternoon that Bemidji got into the ROCORI end zone. The Spartans defense was fantastic, forcing 4 turnovers, and the special teams blocked a punt. The offense wasn't great, but it was effective enough when it had to be. Coach Rowe won the battle of the headsets, for sure, and the Spartans came away with a 17-10 win, and their first ever state football championship.
And quite the party ensued down on the field.
From the press box, I could see; hugs, kisses, tears, big smiles, big laughs, and lots pictures being taken. It was an incredible scene that nobody who witnessed it will ever forget. And it's really an incredible story - this team only won two games last year, with basically the same squad as this year's championship team.
On Saturday, Bemidji scored first on a TD pass to their outstanding wide receiver, Carey Woods. The replay showed that he trapped the ball against the turf, and the play should have been ruled an incomplete pass.
The football gods evened things out for the Spartans, though, in the 2nd quarter. On a fourth down play, Nate Meyer completed a pass to Christian Pedroza in the Bemidji end zone. The officials talked for a second, then ruled the play a ROCORI touchdown. The replay at the 'Dome' showed very clearly, that Pedroza went up and made a great catch, but never got either foot down in the end zone.
Then, with the score 7-7 late in the first half, Sean Terres made the play of the game for the Spartans. He intercepted a Mitchell Hendricks pass that was intended for Woods - and returned it ,untouched, 53 yards for a TD.
That play certainly took a lot of wind out of the Bemidji sails, and it was the Spartans that had a 14-7 halftime lead. For the third straight week, the Spartans had obviously frustrated another high-powered offense, that was used to dominating opposing defenses.
Despite some horrible officiating that went against them, the Spartans were able to extend the lead to 17-7, after a Pedroza field goal. The 'Jacks could only manage a field goal in the fourth quarter - and just like it happened in the Hill-Murray game - Nate Meyer sealed the victory with a late interception. As time expired, the scoreboard read, ROCORI 17 - Bemidji 10. It was time to celebrate.
And it's only fitting, that the last high school player in the state to have his hands on the football this season, was Nate Meyer.
The Spartans (12-1) finished the year winning 12 straight games - in the process winning a: conference, section, and state championship.
Congratulations to everyone involved in the ROCORI program. This was an unbelievable ride that none of us will ever forget.
It was my absolute privilege to witness, and call, every single snap of this championship season.
And I'll see you in a couple of weeks for basketball season.
I hear the Spartans might be 'decent' this year in hoops, too. LOL