Their prep football careers officially came to an end when Rocori defeated Bemidji 17-10 in the Class 4A state title game last November.
But Spartans teammates Nate Meyer, Christian Pedroza and Alex Tray are getting one last chance to play together this week before each heads their separate ways collegiately in the fall.
Meyer, a quarterback who will play at Division I-AA South Dakota State, Pedroza, a kicker/defensive back who will actually play soccer at Cardinal Stritch in Milwaukee, and Tray, a defensive lineman who will play at NAIA Valley City (N.D.) State, were each selected to play in this week’s Minnesota State High School Football All-Star Game.
The three are members of the North team that will take on the South squad at 1 p.m. Saturday at St. Cloud State’s Husky Stadium.
Both teams are spending the week leading up to the game practicing at St. John’s.
In addition to the three Rocori players, Paynesville’s Josh Bungum, Albany’s Ben Eli, Matt Valentine of Little Falls, Foley’s Taylor Lewandowski and St. Cloud Tech’s Paul Kaczor and Dieter Brenner are also members of the North roster.
Lewandowski and Brenner were late additions to the team.
“It’s great,” said Meyer after practice Tuesday. “Winning a state championship was a great way to end our season. But to get to go out playing with a few guys from my high school team in this game is just an added bonus.
“It’s a great feeling.”
Meyer is also playing along side some of his future college teammates, so this week’s game is giving him a chance to solidify future bonds as well.
He’s also rooming with Bemidji’s Cody Rutledge, whose team Rocori defeated for the state title last fall.
“That may have come up a few times,” Meyer said with a smile. “But there’s no hard feelings there. They wanted to win that game and so did we.”
Tray said having three players in this week’s all-star game is a credit to what the Spartans achieved as a team last fall.
“We bonded together really well,” Tray said. “And this just shows how good a team we really were. It wasn’t just the three of us. It took everybody to do what we did.”
Tray too said he is excited to have one last chance to play with Meyer and Pedroza.
“That’s definitely nice,” Tray said. “I wouldn’t have wanted to be on a team like this without knowing anybody. So it’s great to have these guys here with me.”
For Pedroza, this week’s game represents not just his farewell to his old teammates, but his farewell to football as well. He has always played soccer in the summer and chose to pursue that sport at the college level.
“Football and soccer has always gone hand-in-hand with me,” said Pedroza, who had offers to play college football as well. “It was a hard decision. But I just felt like I would miss soccer if I wasn’t playing it anymore.”
All three players said while this week might mark their final time as teammates, the friendships they’ve formed will continue.
“We’ll definitely be talking,” Pedroza said. “That won’t stop. I’m going to follow what these guys are doing. We’ve formed bonds with each other that won’t be broken easily.”
“I’ll definitely try and keep tabs on how everybody is doing,” Meyer added. “And when we come back home on breaks, I’m sure we’ll reunite and catch up.”