After a first-half feeling out period, Rocori found its swagger to start the second half. However it came about, the Spartans went with the feeling, overwhelming Winona by scoring 41 second-half points to pull away for a 48-24 victory.
Despite forcing the Winhawks into three first-half turnovers, Rocori trailed 14-7 at halftime Friday in a Class 4A state semifinal at U.S. Bank Stadium.
The locker room message from Spartans coach James Herberg included some technical adjustments, but it was mostly about getting that winning feeling back.
"The biggest adjustment was just calming our heads down," Herberg said. "We're a team that has a lot of mojo and plays together. We weren't carrying that swagger. We told them to relax and play your game."
It didn't take long for the Spartans (10-2) to turn Herberg's words into actions. They took the second-half kickoff and went 74 yards in three plays, tying the game on a 23-yard score by Brady Linn.
After forcing Winona (11-1) to go three-and-out, Rocori needed just four plays to score again, with quarterback Jack Steil diving over from 1 yard out.
The second half was barely four minutes old and already Rocori had flipped the script and taken a 21-14 lead.
"I don't think we quite drew it up like that, but that was quite an explosion coming out of the half, that's for sure," Herberg said.
Winona coach John Casselius agreed that the quick scores caught the Winhawks by surprise. "There was that quick change," he said. "[Rocori] was just a good team that had things going well."
Steil finished with 302 yards of total offense — 168 rushing, 134 passing — and ran for five touchdowns.
"We just had to go out there and play our game," Steil said.
He added that the Spartans two regular-season losses helped weather their first-half struggles.
"Not winning all our games, we know how to face adversity and how to battle and come back," he said.