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BOYS SOCCER: Bemidji BHS ready for section final battle with Cathedral

BEMIDJI - The Lumberjacks boy soccer players and coaches are one victory away from accomplishing another of their goals - playing at the state meet. Standing in their way is St. Cloud Cathedral, the team that has ended Bemidji’s season in the section playoffs the past three years.

The two teams will square off 8 p.m. today at St. Cloud State.

“This is exciting,” BHS defender Wyatt Miller said of facing St. Cloud Cathedral. “We know what we are up against. We just need to show up mentally and play our best. Our mental attitude going into the game is going to be the difference.”

St. Cloud Cathedral earned its championship opportunity when it defeated Hillcrest Lutheran Academy 1-0 in Tuesday’s section semifinals. Bemidji had an easier time in its semifinal test, stopping Sartell 2-0.

“We will be confident going in but we certainly won’t be arrogant because we know that Cathedral is very good,” Miller continued. “We know that we will have to be ready to give 100 percent. And we will. I have played with these guys for eight or nine years and I trust that everyone on our team will play their heart out.”

The Lumberjacks will take a 13-2-2 record into today’s contest. St. Cloud Cathedral is 16-0-2.

The two programs have quite a history but, unfortunately, BHS has usually been on the short end of the score.

In 2009 the Crusaders defeated Bemidji 3-0 in the section semifinals. The next year they stopped BHS by the same score in the section title game and last fall St. Cloud Cathedral ended the Lumberjacks’ season with a 3-2 shootout win in the 8A semifinals.

Earlier this season the Jacks battled the Crusaders to a 1-1 tie in St. Cloud.

“Cathedral has been our nemesis. But to our credit, the last two times we have met we have tied,” said BHS coach Rick Toward, referring to last year’s shootout decision and the 1-1 regular season deadlock on Sept. 8.

“This year we have the confidence that we didn’t have two or three years ago. We have the confidence that somebody is going to step up and do the unexpected.”

On way to the 13-2-2 overall record Bemidji has allowed only 13 goals and in the two section games the Lumberjacks tossed shutouts, blanking East Grand Forks 4-0 and Sartell 2-0.

St. Cloud Cathedral is 16-0-2 and among its two blemishes is the tie with the Jacks.

“When you look at our history with Cathedral you don’t see much scoring and I don’t see many goals being scored in this game,” Toward said, pointing out his team’s leaders.

That list includes keeper Connor McNallan who has been in net for three years, four-year veterans Riley Brooks and Isak Sommer, three-year standouts Gunnar Nelson, Matt Bitter and Austin Kovach plus two-year starters Seth Wall and Alex Schussman.

“Our kids are experienced and that bodes well for us,” Toward said. “We’re excited about getting this opportunity again. We had the section championship game circled on our calendars all year and now it is here. And we will be ready for it.”

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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