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BOYS SOCCER: Jacks three-peat as section champions

The Bemidji High School boys soccer team celebrates with its Section 8A Championship trophy on Thursday at Chet Anderson Stadium. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)1 / 4
Bemidji High School junior Silas Hess (9) scores the first goal of the game in the Section 8A final against Sartell-St. Stephen on Thursday at Chet Anderson Stadium. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)2 / 4
Bemidji High School senior James Siems (24) races toward the ball in the Section 8A final against Sartell-St. Stephen on Thursday at Chet Anderson Stadium. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)3 / 4
Bemidji High School goalie Jedidiah Bitter (1) makes a save against Sartell-St. Stephen in the Section 8A final on Thursday at Chet Anderson Stadium. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)4 / 4

BEMIDJI -- For the third straight season, the Bemidji High School boys soccer team is bound for the Class A state tournament. Silas Hess scored three goals in the first half to lead the Lumberjacks to a 3-1 win over Sartell-St. Stephen in the Section 8A championship Thursday at Chet Anderson Stadium.

“It feels great,” Hess said. “We obviously have put in a lot of work ever since we were little. I think it’s well deserved for the boys.”

Hess opened the scoring in just the second minute of the game, taking an Aidan Helwig throw-in, splitting a pair of Sartell defenders and beating the keeper for a 1-0 lead.

In the 14th minute, he scored his second. Helwig hit a deep through ball toward the end line to the right of the net, and Hess ran onto it and hit a cross intended for James Siems.

“I just saw Jimmy coming across and I tried to whip it in to him, and it happened to go in the back of the net,” said Hess.

The Sabres (9-7-3) cut the Bemidji lead to 2-1 when Mitch Marthaler struck one off the crossbar, and Ethan Schroers was there to put in the rebound in the 34th minute.

Then Hess wrapped up his hat trick four minutes later. After receiving a pass from Aspen Galdamez, he volleyed the ball over a defender to himself, made a move left and found the lower left corner of the net.

For weeks, Hess has been battling a strained tendon in his foot, but it didn’t seem to be an issue Thursday, instead saying several players on the team have been playing at less than 100 percent health.

“It’s definitely feeling a lot better, but you just have to kind of block it out,” he said. “Once you get on the field, a lot of pain goes away for every player. We have a lot of players banged up right now, so hopefully we heal up.”

After two good chances for the Lumberjacks to stretch the lead to 4-1, the Sabres took over most of the possession.

“In the second half, we came out and we had two really good chances in the beginning,” BHS head coach Rick Toward said. “We could’ve popped them and we could’ve ended the game if we make one, hopefully two, but if we make one of them, and we kind of let them hang around because of that. It felt a little panicky towards the end of the game there. They of course had everything to play for, so they just threw everything at us and we just kind of had to bunker in and make sure that we were defensively sound.”

The Jacks hung on through the final 40 minutes due to a couple big saves from JD Bitter and solid work from the back line in front of him.

“He did great,” Hess said. “He’s always had great games in big games, and he always makes those big saves that we need. I told him before the game, ‘we’re going to need a couple big saves from you,’ and we had them and we ended up getting the victory.”

With the win, the Lumberjacks advance to play in the state tournament, which starts Tuesday, Oct. 23. In each of the last two years, Bemidji’s season ended in the first round.

“Being there three times, we want to get past the first game,” Hess said. “That’s definitely our main goal looking at it right now. We want to make it as far as we can no matter what. It’s going to take some work, but we have the talent, we have a great team this year.”

“Our goals are still the same,” Toward said. “We just want to keep playing. The regular season behind us, the section tournament behind us, we’re super excited to be representing Section 8 again, but we also would love an opportunity to do more than just one game at state.”

Bemidji 3, Sartell-St. Stephen 1

BEM 3 0 -- 3

SSS 1 0 -- 1

First Half -- 1, BEM GOAL, S. Hess (Helwig) 2’; 2, BEM GOAL, S. Hess (Helwig) 14’; 3, SSS GOAL, Schroers (Marthaler) 34’; 4, BEM GOAL, S. Hess (Galdamez) 38’.

Second Half -- No Scoring.