Seven different players scored for Bemidji–highlighted by a brace from Isaac Stone and a celebrated first varsity goal for senior Zeke Graf–as the Lumberjacks captured the Lakes To Prairie Conference boys soccer title for a second straight season with an 8-0 defeat of East Grand Forks on Monday at the Bemidji Middle School.
It was Bemidji’s second consecutive match scoring eight times following an 8-0 victory on Tuesday against Pelican Rapids, and Monday’s scoring started in similarly early fashion to the previous result. Nick Rautio struck his first goal of the season and the Jacks’ first of the afternoon in the 3rd minute with a perfect hit to the far corner from outside the penalty area.
Stone scored his first of the afternoon in the 9th minute, stinging a shot off the hands of EGF goalkeeper Wyatt Cordts after being previously denied on a series of decent looks.
In what became a trend during the first half, a headed goal added to Bemidji’s lead just two minutes later. Lincoln Schmitt’s inviting cross into the 18-yard box was met by a leaping Bo Hofstad on a well-taken header through defensive pressure.
Top scorer Jacob Stanoch got in on the act in the 19th minute when he combined with Stone to slot past Cordts on the run.
The goal produced a full-scale change of Bemidji field players for the rest of the half, though two seniors would be at the center of another header in the 26th minute. Tommy DeGeus swung a teasing cross into the area, giving an unmarked Brodie Price the chance to loop a header into the net.
The Jacks kept up the heading theme on a corner kick in the 38th minute when Price nodded the well-struck cross in the direction of Conor Stodgell. The sophomore had the presence of mind to head the ball back across goal and into the far corner to round off a 6-0 halftime margin.
Stone fired in his second goal of the day in the 55th minute with a fine finish off a low cross delivered by Lincoln Schmitt that would end the afternoon for all of Bemidji’s starting field players.
The highlight of the day, however, was provided by the well-liked senior Graf–typically a defender–in the 70th minute, just a few minutes after he was moved into attack for the final stages of the game. After being closed down on a series of earlier opportunities to shoot toward goal, Graf made an excellent turn on a tight angle inside the area before striking beyond Cordts into the corner to secure a memorable first varsity tally and bring the biggest cheer of the day from the gathered crowd.
Connor Helm posted two saves for his third shutout in goal this season and second in as many games for the Lumberjacks, who improve to 6-7-1 with the win. Their unbeaten 4-0-1 in Lakes To Prairie Conference matches was also enough to finish as conference champions for a second consecutive season.
Bemidji will be home next to face St. Cloud Apollo on Thursday evening at 7pm at Chet Anderson Stadium, a match that can be heard on KBUN-FM 104.5 and Lumberjacks1 at kbunfmsite.wpengine.com.
Postgame interview with Bemidji head coach Rick Toward: