Simley coach Chris Mensen won't deny he was concerned, but he certainly never doubted his team.
Early in the fourth quarter Thursday, after Simley had the better of play for three quarters, they only trailed Rocori by two points.
"We had three drives get stopped on fourth down," Mensen said. "We probably should have had a few more scores on the board."
Senior kicker Reid Remackel hit a 33-yard field goal with 5 minutes, 22 seconds left in the fourth quarter, pushing Simley over the top in a 17-16 victory over Rocori in the Class 4A semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium. Simley advances to the Prep Bowl for the first time since 2014 and the second time in history.
Simley moved the ball efficiently, largely behind the bruising running of senior Gavin Nelson, but failed to convert yards to points.
Three times, Simley (11-1) had drives stall on Rocori's side of midfield.
"We'll need to take a look and figure out how to get those first downs," Mensen said. "When you play well-coached teams like Rocori, they stay in the game and put themselves in position to win."
Nelson, who finished with 167 rushing yards, admitted he and his teammates were bothered by their inability to get separation.
"It was definitely frustrating," Nelson said. "But we all know to stay in a good mind-set and pick each other up on defense."
La'tayvion McCoy-Nunn scored both of Simley's touchdowns in the first half, on a 3-yard run and a 69-yard pass from Caden Renslow. Rocori (9-3) answered on a 22-yard pass from quarterback Jack Spanier and a 4-yard run by Spanier and led thanks to a pair of two-point conversions.
Simley finished with 372 total yards to 123 for Rocori and possessed the ball for 32:22 to Rocori's 15:38.
"We just didn't make enough plays," Rocori coach James Herberg said. "Ultimately, their kicker just barely got enough to get that ball over the crossbar, and that ended up being the difference."