Patrick Reusse
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Rocori was in the Prep Bowl a while back and pulled off an upset to capture a championship trophy for the second time.

Actually, it was only four years ago, but it seems longer since Jalen Suggs was the quarterback for the opposing team.

Think of that. Suggs has been a standout for a Gonzaga basketball team that went into the national finals with a 31-0 record, and he's in his third NBA season after being drafted fifth overall by Orlando, and it's still recent history that Rocori caused Suggs' football career to end with disappointment on the turf of U.S. Bank Stadium.

The final was 22-21 for Rocori, over quarterback Suggs and the co-op of St. Paul Academy, Minnehaha and Blake (SMB) in overtime. Quarterback Jack Steil threw a 15-yard pass on fourth down in overtime, then completed a two-point pass to give the Spartans the upset.

That's remembered as a Prep Bowl classic. Then again, you don't need a great memory, since it was only four years ago that Suggs was laying in frustration on the turf postgame.

On Friday, Rocori was back in the title game and this one will be remembered as a slugfest — Hutchinson 14, Rocori 6, in a game with enough punishing hits that at times it looked like the Iowa Hawkeyes playing themselves.

How tough was that Rocori defense? So much so that coach Andy Rostberg allowed his Hutchinson team to throw 10 forward passes. That's generally an October, not a game, for the Tigers.

"It's tough sledding against that defense," Rostberg said. "Usually we pass when we want to. Some today were because we had to."

This physical bout of wills still was tied 6-6 in the middle of the fourth quarter and Hutch was facing fourth-and-4 at the Rocori 37. The Tigers had been in prime position a couple of times earlier and were turned away with nothing.

"We went with the hook 'n ladder on that throw to Charlie," Rostberg said. "But we never got to the ladder."

Charlie Renner, a flanker, runner, defender, started to pitch, stopped, turned and ran to the Rocori 21. From there, Hutch still required five runs and an offsides penalty before Renner could score on a 2-yard run with 5:24 left.

Quarterback Will Steil drove Rocori quickly to Hutch's 28. Just as with older brother Jack four Prep Bowls earlier, the Spartans weren't going away quietly.

And then a receiver and defender met simultaneously going after a pass, and the ball popped high, and Hutch's Nathan Thode — also a workhorse runner — came down with it for an interception.

That would prove decisive, as Hutch punched its way to first downs and killed the clock.

This was the Tigers' third consecutive Prep Bowl in Class 4A — a victory over Kasson-Mantorville in 2021, a loss to the hard-nosed upstarts, the Simley Spartans, last November.

The title was the fourth for Andy Rostberg in his 25 years as Hutch's coach. He succeeded his father, Grady, who had three titles in 34 seasons as Hutch's coach.

Grady's third title came in his final season as coach: 1998, in a monumental win over Owatonna. The first two titles came in 1983 and '84, with Andy as his quarterback.

Note: The Rostberg coaching dynasty at Hutchinson goes back to 1964, which is eight years before state football playoffs came to Minnesota, and 18 years before those finals moved into the Metrodome and were titled Prep Bowl.

A reporter mentioned to Andy that he now had one more state title than Dad. He kibbitzed about that for a moment and said: "Nobody will be happier about that than him."

And then he paused and said, "Mom … she will be happier."

An occasional visitor to Hutch during football season was in this postgame interview session and was forced to ask: "How about the locals? They have big expectations always."

That was a reference to the well-spoiled folks in the Hutch area that faithfully follow the Tigers.

"Oh …" Rostberg said, with pain in his voice.

"They do have expectations. You see 'em on Saturday, after a Friday game, and they go like this."

The coach held out his right hand, palm up, and said: "More. We want more."

Rostberg looked at the four seniors he had brought with him to the interview: Carter Verhasselt, Andrew Lipke, Anton Kadlec and Logan Butler.

Unlike 2022, the four Tigers and rest of 'em had won the last one this time.

"There's no more 'more' after this," Rostberg said. "It's going to be a great rest of the year, right?"

There were four nods and their coach said: "They will be the 2023 state champs for the rest of their lives."

No doubt, Hutch football followers will always remember this group of seniors thusly, and resist the urge to ask, "What happened in that Simley game?"