CROOKSTON – Without two key players, the Bemidji boys soccer team still put on a pretty good show.
Despite missing goalkeeper Connor McNallan and midfielder Isak Sommer, the Lumberjacks still scored four times against Crookston en route to a 4-1 win Thursday evening.
“We played okay tonight,” BHS head coach Rick Toward said. “It wasn’t our strongest game but we’ll take the win.”
The Lumberjacks, who improve to 10-1-1, had trouble scoring early but got on the board midway through the first half when Austin Kovach headed a ball from Alex Schussman in the 25th minute of the game.
However, the Pirates answered just 30 seconds later to tie things up at 1-1. A long shot from near midfield from Doug Larson was aided by the wind and somehow beat backup keeper Matt Bitter, who was playing out of position due to McNallan’s illness.
Bitter usually plays in the field so hasn’t seen a lot of time in the net for the Lumberjacks.
“He hasn’t played a whole lot of goal, so that one got past him,” Toward said. “He definitely wanted that one back, but overall Matt played well.”
Bitter made nine saves, all in the first half – every one of Crookston’s shots were in the first half and were from far out. The wind aided many of them, and when the teams switched sides, the Pirates couldn’t get those shots off.
The Jacks scored what would end up being the game-winner only two minutes later. Riley Brooks headed in a pass from Sommer’s replacement, Ryan Greendahl, in the 27th minute to make the score 2-1.
Greendahl took a cross off his chest and Brooks was right there, heading the ball in from about six yards back.
The Lumberjacks added to their tally in the second half.
Gunnar Nelson scored in the 70th minute, taking a Schussman corner and heading it in for the 3-1 lead.
Neiko Gale closed out scoring 35 seconds later with his first-ever varsity goal for the final tally.
The Lumberjacks outshot the Pirates 16-10. Crookston keeper Justin Burgoz made 12 saves, four in the first half. The Lumberjacks return to the field Saturday when they’ll travel to Sartell-St. Stephen for another tough matchup.
The Sabres are 6-5-1 and are in Section 8A along with Bemidji, although they are in the South Sub-Section.
“It will be a tough match Saturday at their place,” Toward said. “But we should have Isak back and we hope to have more consistency in the middle of the field.”
Bemidji 4, Crookston 1
Bemidji 2 2 – 4
Crookston 1 0 – 1
B – Kovach (Schussman), 25:00
C – Larson, 25:30
B – Brooks (Greendahl), 27:00
B – Nelson (Schussman), 70:00
B – Gale, 70:35