BEMIDJI – After starting last season 0-2 the Bemidji boys soccer team compiled a 12-6 record. This year’s squad is hoping to fare even better and one of the means to that end was reversing last year’s early record.
In Friday’s opener the Lumberjacks took the first step in that quest as they buried Little Falls 5-1. Saturday’s home game against Hillcrest Lutheran Academy was expected to provide a sterner challenge as the Comets traditionally are in the hunt for the conference title.
Bemidji was tested but the Jacks scored early and late and improved to 2-0 with a 2-1 victory.
Tuesday Bemidji will shoot for its third victory when it completes a three-game homestand against Detroit Lakes.
In Saturday’s battle Alex Schussman scored directly off a corner kick 20:29 into the action to give BHS a 1-0 advantage. The visitors tied the game five minutes into the second half and the 1-1 deadlock continued until the final minutes.
Seth Wall, however, broke the tie with 1:32 to play when he capped a 3-on-2 Lumberjack rush by taking Schussman’s feed near the right side of the box and zipping a shot past Hillcrest goalie Vegard Hetlebakke.
The visitors manufactured a pair of scoring opportunities in the final 1:20 but Bemidji goalie Connor McNallan made the save on the first chance and the Comets missed the goal with their final opportunity.
Hillcrest outshot Bemidji 11-8 and had the edge in territorial play. But McNallan stood tall when it was required and the Lumberjacks made just enough plays to post the win.
“We played two games in 24 hours and we’re tired,” said BHS coach Rick Toward. “Today we spent a lot of time, too much time in fact, chasing the ball. Hillcrest shut us down by getting on us right away. Instead of moving the ball with passes we tried to be a one-man show and dribble the ball. And in this game against this type of competition you need to use your teammates.”
Bemidji opened the scoring in an unusual way as Schussman took a corner kick from the right side and sliced a shot through traffic, around the right post and past a surprised goaltender.
The Comets answered early in the second stanza when Anders Bjorndal found a seam behind the Lumberjacks defense, took a feed from Daniel Romarheim and rifled a shot past McNallan.
That tally set the table for Wall’s game-winner in the final two minutes.
“That first goal was pretty lucky but our second goal was the result of great effort,” Toward said. “This was a big victory for us. It was a 2-point game in terms of conference points and it’s always nice to get off to a good start.
“We still need to improve and this game gave Jeff (assistant coach Jeff Mitchell) and me an idea of what we need to work on.”
Hillcrest 0 1 - 1
Bemidji 1 1 - 2
B-Schussman (unassisted), 20:29
H-Bjorndal (Romarheim), 44:49
B-Wall (Schussman), 78:28
Hetlebakke (H) 3 3 - 6
McNallan (B) 5 5 - 10