Packers advance in Class 4A state tournament by defeating Rocori

South St. Paul’s making its first appearance in football championship game

East Metro Conference perennial powerhouse South St. Paul took a huge step forward Saturday, Nov. 7, when it played the Rocori Spartans in the Class 4A state football tournament.

The Packers (11-1) gained a 19-14 victory to advance into the championship game against the undefeated Becker Bulldogs Friday, Nov. 13, at TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus. It was the first time the Packers had made it to the state tournament football finals.

Following the contest with Rocori of Cold Springs (9-4), South St. Paul head coach Chad Sexauer told his players, “You can be proud. All the hard work you put in last summer; all the hard work you put in in the weight room; all of your play for you and your teammates has paid off. You should be proud of what you accomplished tonight.”

Then in his comments to the media, he said, “It was just a complete team victory. We got some big plays early in the game and our defense made them stand up. I can’t say enough of how proud I am of this team.”

The Packers scored the first two times they got the ball. The first came on their opening drive when they capitalized on quarterback Dan Pietruszewski’s 64-yard scamper that give them a first down at the Spartans’ 15-yard line. From there Malik Holmes went in to score the first touchdown of the game. A point-after kick by Sam Rohrer put the Packers on top 7-0 just 40 seconds into the game.

Next, an interception of a pass and a nice runback by Ryan Duffy gave South St. Paul a first down at Rocori’s 47-yard line.

A 32-yard gallop by Duffy and 15 yards by Pietruszewski put the ball at the 1. From there Pietruszewski plowed across. The PAT sailed wide but the Packers were up by 13-0 with 4:45 remaining in the first quarter.

The Spartans were down but a long ways from being counted out. A series of passes paid off when they hit on a 3-yarder for a TD. The point after put them at 7-13 as the first quarter ended.

A huge South St. Paul defensive stand was made when Rocori was stopped after having a first down at the Packers’ 1-yard line. The first half ended with South St. Paul owning the 13-7 edge.

On a good mixture of running and passing the Spartans capitalized in the third quarter. 

A pass on fourth down from the 1-yard line was caught in the Packers end zone and with the PAT boot, Rocori took a slim 14-13 edge just under two minutes into the third quarter.

The margin was short lived however. Following the ensuing kickoff, the Packers had a first down at their 27-yard line.

From there, Pietruszewski broke a tackle at the right side of the line and raced 73 yards down the sideline in front of screaming South St. Paul fans and into the end zone. The run for a two-point conversion was stopped by a stubborn Spartans’ defense, but in just a minute and 16 seconds the major damage had been accomplished by the Packers.

Though Rocori threatened on several occasions in the final minutes, the South St. Paul defense proved time and again to be equal to the Spartan’s effort.

Wally Wakefield can be reached at or at 651-748-7826.


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