By Chris Murphy, Forum Communications
MOORHEAD – Moorhead forward Gabe Roach saw the light Tuesday against undefeated Bemidji.
He saw the light shining in the eyes of the Lumberjacks goalie Connor McNallan’s face and fired a free kick into the back of the net for the go-ahead goal with less than eight minutes remaining, propelling the Spuds to a 3-1 win over the Lumberjacks.
“I knew that there was no way I was going to go near post,” Roach said. “The sun really worked to our advantage. I could tell (the goalie) couldn’t see the ball and I just kind of got lucky. I kicked it and it was about to go a foot over, but, at the last second, it knuckled down.”
Roach added a goal with 90 seconds left off a rebound on a penalty kick to seal the win for Moorhead (10-1-1) and hand Bemidji (9-1-1) its first loss of the season.
“We know we’re going to have a battle, coming to Moorhead,” Bemidji coach Rick Toward said. “We’re not disappointed in winning or losing. We wanted to see how we stacked up against the best team in (Class 2A, Section 8) and we held our own. Moorhead had the better play today.”
The offense was there for Moorhead, but the back of the net wasn’t, as the Spuds outshot Bemidji 12-2 in the first half but only found themselves up 1-0.
Drew Thompson picked a good time to get his first varsity goal, finding the back of the net from 35 yards out on a ball that seemed to fly in slow motion through the air and past the outstretched fingertips of McNallan with just more than five minutes remaining in the first half.
“I saw an open shot and coach always says to put the ball on net,” Thompson said. “It was in slow motion for me. It’s going to be my most memorable goal, I can tell you that.”
Less than two minutes into the second half, Bemidji landed the equalizer when Isak Sommer found Alex Schussman behind the defense. Schussman controlled the ball and, when Spuds goalie Tanner Swenson came out to challenge, tapped it into the right corner of the net. It would be the only shot on net of the second half for the Lumberjacks.
“We played fine today, we just had trouble playing our game on this field,” Toward said, noting that Moorhead’s field is a little more rough than the one at BHS, which made it harder for the Jacks to employ their ball-control first strategy.
“They had more shots and more opportunities to score.”
In all, the Spuds outshot the Lumberjacks 23-5, but Toward said many of those Moorhead shots were far from the target.
“They got a lot of shots where they’d just get the ball and shoot as soon as they could,” the Bemidji coach said. “Many of them were nowhere even close to the net.”
Only seven Moorhead shots were on target, while four of Bemidji’s five shots were on net.
McNallan made four saves on the day while Moorhead’s Swenson made three.
“Every time we play Bemidji, it’s always a very competitive game,” Moorhead coach Lance Hansen said. “When I looked up their record and saw they were undefeated, I knew it was going to be a good fight. We had to play well. Our midfields and offense flowed really well tonight.”
The Lumberjacks return to the pitch Thursday when they’ll travel to East Grand Forks for a second game against their section 8A rivals. The Jacks defeated the Green Wave 5-0 earlier this season.
“We’re 9-1-1 this far into the season, you bet we’ll take that,” Toward said. “We came in here against a great team, played well and came out healthy. I think we’re right where we want to be.”
Pioneer reporter Jack Hittinger contributed to this story.
Moorhead 3, Bemidji 1
Bemidji 0 1 – 1
Moorhead 1 2 – 3
M – Thompson, 34:50.
B – Schussman (Sommer), 41:52.
M – Roach, 72:35.
M – Roach, 78:32.
M – Swenson 3.
B – McNallan 4.