The ROCORI Spartans held off North Branch in the opening round of the MSHSL State Football Tournament last week in Blaine, picking up a 22-12 win over the Vikings.

The Vikings held the ball for 23 minutes and 30 seconds of the 24 minute long first half but found themselves trailing 6-0 at the half thanks to Will Steil's 53-yard touchdown toss to Adam Langer as time expired in the first quarter.

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North Branch scored a touchdown early in the third quarter but botched the extra point attempt to keep the game tied at six. The Spartans re-took the lead later in the quarter when quarterback Jack Spanier hit wide receiver Hunter Nistler on a slant route for an eight yard touchdown.

The two point conversion attempt was good, giving ROCORI a 14-6 lead. However, the Vikings scored again in the fourth quarter to get within two, but their two point conversion attempt failed. The Spartans would then ice the game on a 55 yard catch-and-run touchdown to running back Sebastian Novak.

PHOTO: Dave Overlund, WJON
PHOTO: Dave Overlund, WJON
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The Spartans enter the AAAA semifinal round with a 9-2 record, while their opponent Simley (Inver Grove Heights) checks in at 10-1. The Simley Spartans beat Chisago Lakes 46-14 in their quarterfinal matchup.

Simley is a run-first team that has attempted just 116 passes this season against 423 running plays. For comparison sake, ROCORI has attempted slightly more passes at 167.

Dave Overlund
Dave Overlund
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Running back Gavin Nelson has had a huge season for Simley, rushing 223 times for 1,806 yards and 23 touchdowns. ROCORI is led by dual-threat quarterback Jack Spanier, who has passed for 1,631 yards and 21 touchdowns while also running 93 times for 426 yards and ten touchdowns.

Simley has scored 36.1 points per game, while ROCORI has notched 35.8. ROCORI's defense is holding opponents to 13.8 points against per game, while Simley allows just 11.6.

Thursday's game is scheduled to kick off at 4 p.m. at US Bank Stadium. The game can be heard on AM 1390 and FM 93.9 Granite City Sports.

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