An early second-half strike from Sartell-St. Stephen upended an improved performance after halftime from Bemidji boys soccer as the Lumberjacks slipped to a 1-0 defeat against the Sabres on Tuesday evening at Chet Anderson Stadium.
It was the third time this season that the Lumberjacks have been on the losing end of a 1-0 result, though the winning goal did not come during an opening half where Bemidji had to repel 13 corners from Sartell. Very few shots on goal were generated by the visitors during the first half, and John McNallan was kept free of trouble thanks to help from his defense.
In addition to the slew of Sabre corners, the Lumberjacks also had a dangerous free kick from Mikitu Nies to navigate. McNallan was able to handle the strike on net without any relative difficulty as Bemidji kept things goalless.
On the other end of the field, the Lumberjacks failed to put a shot on target in the first half, but were not without opportunities. After a misplay from the Sartell defense gave possession to Noah Johnson on the edge of the penalty area, the Bemidji midfielder could only flick the ball over his head in the direction of Casey Hiller on the flank, who could not steer a header in the area of backpedaling Sabre goalkeeper William Vogt.
Sartell’s winning goal came 10 minutes into the second half after a good restart following halftime from the Lumberjacks. A counter down the right wing from John Engelkes led to a cutback ball for Raymond Navarro to ram past Josh Nyberg off the crossbar and over the line.
The visitors rarely created any other threatening opportunities the rest of the way, but Bemidji’s best chances failed to test Vogt directly. A quick free kick from midfield found Michael Dickinson creeping in on the back post, but his header flew harmlessly over the bar.
Just a few minutes later, Dickinson again made a good run from deep on another lofted cross beyond the defense of Sartell, but this time he could not steer a shot toward goal with his foot.
Sartell finished with a 12-9 advantage in shots, topping the Lumberjacks 6-2 in shots on goal. McNallan finished with three saves in the first half before Nyberg had two in the second.
Bemidji drops to 2-6-1 heading into its penultimate game prior to the Section playoffs. The Lumberjacks will visit Rocori on Thursday afternoon at 5:30pm.
Postgame interview with Bemidji head coach Rick Toward: