The Rocori Spartans are under new leadership this season while pursuing a fifth straight trip to the state tournament. Former defensive coordinator James Herberg has taken over the head coaching job for 2018.

“We are very optimistic,” Herberg said. “I am very pleased as far as the energy and passion that we have exuded in practice.”

The Spartans lost some key players from last year’s team, including quarterback Mason Primus and big linemen Matt Waletzko and Reed Ruegemer. Running back Matt Koshiol says it will be a bit of an adjustment getting used to the new line in front of him, but that he is confident they will be successful.

“They aren’t as big, but we are a lot faster,” Koshiol said. “We are just as strong coming off, so we will be all right.”

“Some people say we lost a lot of big guys up front, and to be completely honest I am tired of hearing it,” Herberg said. “Yeah, we lost some big guys up front, but this new group of guys is really taking control of it.”

The Spartans will start junior Jack Steil at quarterback, replacing two-year starter Mason Primus, who is now at St. Cloud State. Koshiol says there is a lot to look forward to with the new signal caller.

“He’s a physical runner and he has a cannon for an arm,” Koshiol said. “He will keep teams honest on the defensive side of the ball, respecting his run game and his throwing power.”

Defensively, the Spartans will look to fill some holes left on the line and the defensive backfield. Senior Brady Klehr is optimistic that the new faces will be up to the challenge.

“Our d-line is really good, strong and fast,” Klehr said. “Our secondary is missing a lot, but the people who are playing are stepping up and we will be okay.”

As far as the state tournament streak is concerned, Herberg says that it was addressed at the beginning of the season, but the talk has been “parked” since then.

“That can’t be our focus, our focus is on ourselves and getting better,” Herberg said. “If you continue to do that every day, the rest will take care of itself.”