For the first time in Bemidji High School history, the Section 8 section champion boys soccer team is headed to the Class A state semifinals and is guaranteed a top-four finish at the state tournament.
Junior and leading scorer Silas Hess buried the lone goal of the Jacks quarterfinal game, leading Bemidji to a hardfought 1-0 upset victory over No. 3 Mahtomedi on Wednesday at Husky Stadium in St. Cloud.
“It feels great. The first time in history, and we’re all just pumped right now, full of energy,” Bemidji junior goalie JD Bitter said.
Hess’ goal came early on in the contest on a play starting from an Ethan Mock corner kick. Mock’s cross went to Aidan Helwig and then to Ben Hess, who then crossed for Silas Hess to head past the Zephyrs keeper.
From there, Bemidji had 74 minutes to keep the ball out of its own goal.
“We had to be very defensively stout tonight,” BHS head coach Rick Toward said. “That was a very good attacking Mahtomedi team. (Helio) De La Torre, he’s a Mr. Soccer finalist. We kept him fairly quiet. He had a couple looks, rolled one just wide in the second half, but in the end, what can you say? Our back line was very, very strong tonight and supported real well with our mids. We did enough offensively to win, but definitely had to make it stand up defensively.”
The Lumberjacks had a few chances to build on the lead on counters and corner kicks, but as the clock winded down in the second half, the Zephyrs desperation mounted and their attack became relentless.
In goal, Bitter said it didn’t take him long to get accustomed to the state tournament pace.
“We knew coming into it that it was going to be the biggest game of our year so far,” he said, “so mentally, I was a little nervous at first, and then as soon as I have that first save, I get into the groove, and after that I’m set to go.”
Bitter and the Jacks back line held strong through several Mahtomedi corner kicks in the second half, as well as two free kicks just outside the 18 in the final minute.
“Just get the ball out,” Bitter said. That’s all that’s going through our minds at that point. Get the ball out and up.”
With the final buzzer, the Lumberjacks clinched a state semifinal appearance at U.S. Bank Stadium. They will meet Academy of Holy Angels at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 30.
“We’ve been in the section finals six times, the last three years we’ve advanced,” Toward said. “We’ve been to this game three times in a row now, and the third time we advance. We’re not thinking that we’re done. We know we have two more games to play. We’re hoping we’re playing for two more wins.”
But with that game coming after a five-day break, he said the team has plenty of time to slow down and soak in what it has already accomplished.
“We’re going to check and see how healthy we are coming out,” Toward said. “We had some guys that got nicked a little bit tonight, but overall I thought it was a pretty clean game in terms of staying healthy. We’ll get back to work tomorrow and see what we want to do in terms of working on our play and our attack and shore up defensively on the mistakes we made.
“But really, I think the next 24 (hours) is just going to be enjoying this. We’re going to go back to school tomorrow, and people are going to be celebrating with us, and we’re going to be having a good time.”
The Bemidji High School girls soccer team had its season come to an end Wednesday, as the Lumberjacks dropped their Class A state quarterfinal game, 6-0, to defending champion No. 1 Mahtomedi at Husky Stadium in St. Cloud.