Thursday's Section 8A boys soccer opener in Bemidji went as expected. The top-seeded Lumberjacks eliminated No. 8 Walker-Hackensack-Akeley 9-0 in a game that BHS controlled from the outset.
Jacks coach Rick Toward, however, was looking at the pace of the game and the way his athletes performed in their individual battles as much as he was concentrating on the final score.
"Our first objective was to win the game but we also wanted to use it as a stepping stone for the quarterfinals," Toward said. "The game was decided early and we were looking at playing our best so we will be prepared for the next round."
Bemidji will be home again 1 p.m. Saturday for the section quarterfinals and the opponent will be either fourth-seeded East Grand Forks or No. 5 Detroit Lakes. Those teams met late Thursday in East Grand Forks and the winner will head to Bemidji on Saturday.
In Thursday's contest the Lumberjacks scored three first-half goals to take control and iced the win with six goals in the final 40 minutes.
Although the outcome was never in doubt Toward wasn't entirely pleased with his team's play in the first half.
"In the second half we were much better in terms of our communication and our attack," the coach said.
"It was dead silent in the first half. Our players were quiet and the fans were quiet. It was so quiet that I thought the deer would be coming out of the woods.
"We also needed to attack better, especially from our outside midfield positions," Toward continued. "We've been demanding that they head to the near post when they have the ball and the open lane. When they do that they force the defense to make a move instead of staying compact."
Less than 20 seconds into the second half the Lumberjacks did what the coaching staff was asking and the reward was Bemidji's fourth goal of the afternoon.
Riley Brooks gained control and headed up the right side toward the post. When the defender and goaltender came out to force the action Brooks centered a pass to Austin Kovach who tapped the ball into a wide-open net.
The goal was Kovach's second of the afternoon as he scored Bemidji's third goal 33 minutes into the first half. Prior to that Kyle Fodness beat WHA goalie Seth Kimball twice in less than a minute, scoring off the goalie's hands at the 8:27 mark and capping a give-and-go with Isak Sommer 30 seconds later.
BHS continued its attack in the second stanza and the effort produced four goals. In addition to Kovach's 19 seconds into the half, Ian Sweeney Smith, Sommer, Elias Hendrickson, Fodness and Wyatt Miller each slipped a shot past Kimball.
"The way we played in the second half is how we have to play in Saturday's quarterfinal and during the rest of the playoffs," Toward said. "I think that second half prepared us for what is to come. We're as ready now as we'll ever be.
"We knew we couldn't look past Walker and we didn't," the coach continued. "And now our only task is to concentrate on Saturday's game."
Bemidji 9, WHA 0
WHA 0 0 - 0
Bemidji 3 6 - 9
B-Fodness (Trummer) 8:27
B-Fodness (Sommer) 9:05
B-Kovach (Fodness) 32:11
B-Kovach (Brooks) 40:19
B-Sweeney Smith (Fodness) 46:27
B-Sommer (Trummer) 50:50
B-Hendrickson (Kovach) 54:31
B-Fodness (Schussman) 71:33
B-Miller (unassisted) 71:40
Kimball (W) 12 16 - 28
Graefe (B) 1 0 - 1