BOYS SOCCER: BHS misses finishing touch in 1-0 loss

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Lumberjack senior Michael Dickinson (20) and junior Colten Pickett (19) race for the ball in a game against Sartell-St. Stephen on Tuesday at Chet Anderson Stadium. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- Whenever the Bemidji High School boys soccer team saw some daylight on Tuesday, opportunity never developed into a goal -- resulting in a 1-0 loss to Sartell-St. Stephen at Chet Anderson Stadium.

“We’re seeing the improvement, but we’re getting kind of tired talking about improvement every game,” BHS head coach Rick Toward said. “It’s time to start seeing that show up on the scoreboard. I think we’ll get there.”

Another element that made life difficult for the Lumberjacks (2-6-1) was that the Sabres (4-4-1) were able to speed them up into a rushed attack.

“It’s super hard to train at game speed,” Toward said. “When you play a team like a Sartell or a (St. Cloud) Tech, where they have a pretty high level of pressure, where they’re really pressing and forcing you to play at 100%, little mistakes turn into missing goal opportunities.”

The Sabres owned control in the first half, racking up 13 corner kicks and maintaining constant pressure. The Bemidji defense and keeper John McNallan managed to keep them at bay, but the continual corners didn’t leave much room for the Jacks to create offensive opportunities of their own. That all added up to a 0-0 halftime score.


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Bemidji senior Silas Bitter (15) kicks the ball in a game against Sartell-St. Stephen on Tuesday at Chet Anderson Stadium. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

“Obviously it was a bend-don’t-break type of mentality,” Toward said. “Our defense held up very, very well. John came out and got a couple balls off of corners. We cleared when we needed to. But in the end, we really started to play this game, I thought, when we went down 1-0.”

Raymond Navarro scored the lone goal on a counterattack in the 50th minute, striking the crossbar and finding the back of the net off a pass from an ever-active John Engelkes.

BHS looked better from then on, maintaining more possession and even starting a few runs into the final third. But their need for a goal also exposed a lack of finesse required to find one.

“The opportunities we create for ourselves, we’re just not precise enough, calm enough… to actually put the ball (in) and make it a dangerous situation for their goalkeeper,” Toward said. “Part of that has to do with guys who are being asked to step up and fill roles in a way that they haven’t before. We don’t have that natural goal scorer on this team that we’ve had in previous years. We’re kind of trying to score by committee.”

In the end, the Jacks walked away without the equalizer. William Vogt stopped both shots on goal that he faced for the Sabres. On the other end, McNallan was 3-for-3 on save opportunities in the first half, while Josh Nyberg made two saves in the second half.

“This team still has a lot of soccer left to play with the section tournament still around the corner,” Toward said. “That’s our goal: to be ready and get prepared for that.”


Bemidji will next hit the road for a 5:30 p.m. kickoff against Rocori on Thursday, Oct. 1, in Cold Spring.

Sartell-St. Stephen 1, Bemidji 0

SSS 0 1 -- 0

BHS 0 0 -- 0

First half -- No scoring.

Second half -- 1, SSS GOAL, Navarro (Jo. Engelkes), 50’.

Saves -- McNallan (BHS) 3; Nyberg (BHS) 2; Vogt (SSS) 2.


Micah Friez is the former sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he worked at the Pioneer from 2015-23 and is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing.
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