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SOCCER: Bemidji scores three goals in final 3 minutes of first half to top Crookston in section playoffs

Bemidji’s Leo Spry, left, beats Crookston goalie Michael Tate to the ball to score a goal. Spry ended the game with a hat trick and Bemidji topped Crookston 5-1 in their Section 8A first round playoff game. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI — Down 1-0 late in the first half, the Bemidji boys soccer team needed just three minutes to re-assert their dominance Thursday.

The Lumberjacks scored three times in the final three minutes of the first half against Crookston, helping them win their first-round Section 8A playoff game 5-1.

“We played poorly in that first half,” BHS head coach Rick Toward said. “We just kind of farted around there for the first 25 minutes… we even scored on ourselves. We just weren’t playing very well.”

The Lumberjacks gave Crookston a goal at the 29:29 mark, when one of Bemidji’s defenders misplayed a kick. It ended up going behind him. Matt Bitter couldn’t save it and Ben Dorman — the last Pirate to touch the ball — got credit for the goal.

But Leo Spry and Alex Schussman soon took the game into their own hands.

Spry broke Bemidji’s scoreless half with a goal at the 37:14 mark of the period. Schussman got the assist.

Thirty seconds later, Schussman got in on the fun, beating Crookston goalkeeper Michael Tate with an unassisted tally to give BHS its first lead of the game.

Schussman and Spry connected for the first goal in that span at 39:12, giving the Lumberjacks a 3-1 lead at halftime.

“That stretch really hurt Crookston, I think,” Toward said. “We had beat them big the last time we played and they had some confidence. But I think those last three goals were kind of a gut punch for them. That really helped us.”

In the second half, the Lumberjacks kept it up. Spry completed his hat trick in the 46th minute of the second, getting an assist from none other than Schussman to extend the BHS lead.

Niklas Luiga tacked on an extra insurance goal from a long shot in the 76th minute, getting an assist from Louis Iaquinto.

The Lumberjacks finished the game with 31 shots (18 on goal) to Crookston’s 10 (7 on goal).

Matt Bitter made six saves while Crookston keeper Tate made 13 saves.

“It was a mental test for us,” Toward said. “We beat them 5-0 earlier this season so it was, I think, tough for them to come back and not overlook this team.

“We’re a young team, so they’re still learning the mental aspect of it.”

The third-seeded Lumberjacks (6-8-3) will take on either Detroit Lakes or Fergus Falls in second round action Saturday.

The game was not complete at presstime, but if second-seeded Detroit Lakes wins the Jacks will play on the road Saturday. If seventh-seeded Fergus Falls wins the Lumberjacks will host the Otters.

Bemidji 5, Crookston 1

Crookston    1     0 – 1

Bemidji         3     2 – 5

First Half

C-Dorman (unassisted), 29:29.

B-Spry (Schussman), 37:14.

B-Schussman (unassisted), 37:42.

B-Spry (Schussman), 29:12.

Second Half

B-Spry (Schussman), 46:42.

B- Luiga (Iaquinto), 76:42.

Keeper Saves

Tate (Crookston), 13

Bitter (Bemidji), 6

Jack Hittinger

Jack Hittinger is the sports editor of the Bemidji Pioneer. He is also the Bemidji State beat writer. He hails from the Great State of Michigan. Read his Bemidji State blog at and follow him on Twitter at @Jackhitts.

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