ROCORI Set To Battle Byron In Minnesota State Football Semifinal Thursday
The ROCORI football team topped Orono last week to start its 12th state tournament in school history. The team previously made the tourney in 1977, 1987, 1991, 2005, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2019 and 2022 and would have made the tournament in 2020 had there been one.
Those trips have resulted in a pair of state championships, first in 2011 and the most recent in 2019.
The Spartans (9-2) will play against Byron (10-1) in the semifinals at 4 p.m. Thursday at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. The game can be heard on AM 1390/FM 93.9 Granite City Sports and online at 1390GraniteCitySports.com.
ROCORI head coach and mullet enthusiast James Herberg says that it's a big deal for the kids on this year's team to play in the Vikings' home stadium.
"It's so exciting for our kids to be able to go to that venue and experience that," Herberg said. "It's not the expectation, but this what we are working toward, playing in an NFL stadium and probably one of the top ones in the entire nation."
The Spartans outlasted Orono 28-27 in the state quarterfinals last week in Elk River. ROCORI trailed 21-7 at halftime before rallying for the win.
"Our kids new how to respond and knew they needed to chip away play by play," Herberg said. "I was almost speechless after the game with how well this team has responded to adversity this season."
ROCORI fell to Simley in the state semifinals last year, but Herberg says just making it to US Bank Stadium last season will pay dividends against Byron on Thursday.
"The kids having been down there, even if they were just freshmen or sophomores, the oohs and ahhs are out of (them) a little bit because you've done this.
"There are a lot of nuances, like a shorter warmup period, so knowing what that looks like works to our advantage too," Herberg said.
Byron enters the matchup ranked #5 in Class AAAA according to Minnesota-Scores.net's QRF Ranking formula. Herberg says you have to be a great team to make it to this point and points to the Bears' offensive line and running game as their biggest strengths.
"They have some great players, their quarterback is a dual threat and their running back is committed to Sioux Falls so he's an explosive rusher," Herberg said. "Their left tackle is committed to North Dakota State, so they have guys who are really good football players."
Herberg says his coaching staff deserves a lot of credit for his team's success, noting the importance of continuity.
"A lot of credit goes to our coaching staff, we have an incredible coaching staff across the board," Herberg said. "That really makes the experience a lot better for the players."
WHAT: ROCORI vs BYRON @ US BANK STADIUM
WHEN: Thursday, November 16th at 4 p.m.
WHERE: AM 1390/FM 93.9 Granite City Sports and 1390GraniteCitySports.com