An 89th-minute equalizer from Jacob Stanoch just one minute after Bemidji went behind in extra time secured the Lumberjacks a dizzying 5-5 draw with visiting Hillcrest Lutheran Academy in a breathless Lakes To Prairie Conference boys soccer match on Monday at the Bemidji Middle School.
The scoreboard-bursting match had more goals produced on each respective side of the final result than any in at least the last 15 recorded years of Bemidji boys soccer games–an outcome that seemed almost inevitable from the game’s opening exchanges.
The visiting Comets–who had played Bemidji to a completely opposite 0-0 draw last season in Fergus Falls–produced a lively start before breaking the deadlock in just the fourth minute. Forward Isak Ostevold finished off a sweeping passage of buildup play inside the Jacks’ penalty area to stake the visitors to a quick lead.
One goal became two just four minutes after the opener thanks to a 13th goal of the season from Hillcrest top scorer Abram Ness, who clipped a smart finish over Connor Helm after beating Bemidji’s backline on another direct ball through.
The second goal awakened the previously lethargic start from the Lumberjacks, who put themselves on the board in the 10th minute. A quick buildup down the right gave Brodie Price a chance to play for Bo Hofstad to tuck in a close-range finish under Comets keeper Cole Peterson.
After a relatively quiet 11-minute stretch, the game burst to life again beginning in the 21st minute. Moving into a forward position due to a lack of available options in attack for the match, senior Jonathan Devescovi won a ball played over the top of the Comet defense and slotted in an equalizer.
Parity was maintained for mere seconds, as the Comets raced back down the field and won a free kick on the edge of Bemidji’s 18-yard box in the 22nd minute. Rolf Fluge proceeded to angle a perfect strike past the Bemidji wall and away from Helm to once again put Hillcrest in front.
Incredibly, Bemidji’s reply would follow just seconds after. Devescovi’s pace beat the Hillcrest backline before he was clipped by an onrushing Peterson inside the penalty area.
The senior took on the responsibility of the ensuing penalty kick and calmly left Peterson rooted to his goal line with a low strike to the corner that drew the match even at three.
The Comets again turned to the speed and finishing of Ness to once again capture the lead in the 33rd minute, as he finished off another sweeping attack by scoring at close range past Helm.
Bemidji regrouped at halftime with a stouter defensive showing to begin the second half, though tiring legs and hobbled players in different areas of the field left the home side increasingly struggling to create good chances from their possession. Devescovi’s pace again presented an opportunity for a leveler–and his hat-trick–midway through the half, but his early strike on the edge of the box skied over the crossbar.
But in the 68th minute, the Lumberjacks would again muster an tying goal for the third time in the match. Jacob Stanoch and Nick Rautio exchanged a series of close passes before a blocked Rautio shot fell to Stanoch for an effort that beat Peterson to his near post.
The momentary relief for Bemidji was capitalized on by Hillcrest with a rare second half foray forward, as Ostevold broke through before being tripped by Helm on a sliding effort to win the ball–resulting in a Hillcrest penalty kick just a minute after Stanoch’s goal.
Ness stepped forward looking to complete his hat-trick and restore the lead to the Comets, but his strike missed wide to the left and kept the match level.
Extra time would follow, with Hillcrest seeing more of the ball in the first five-minute frame without any final end product. Bemidji hit back in the final five minutes with a clear chance inside the box for Stanoch that was launched over the bar.
The game again opened up in end-to-end fashion following the miss, producing what seemed to be a certain winner from Fluge. An dash to the endline from Ness led to a cutback pass that found Fluge wide open in front of Helm for a first-time strike that went off the goalkeeper’s leg and into the corner.
Despite the shock of again going behind, Bemidji provided one more stunning twist by hitting back for a last-ditch equalizer with 1:09 remaining in extra time. Another lifted clearance put the Hillcrest backline under pressure before Devescovi won possession and squared to Stanoch to draw the Jacks level for the fourth and final time in the game.
The gripping match ended with no further chances for either team, settling the dust on a first draw of the season for both sides.
Bemidji edged Hillcrest 10-8 in shots on goal, as Helm produced three saves while Peterson tallied five. The draw keeps the Lumberjacks unbeaten in Lakes To Prairie Conference play at 2-0-1, with matches against Pelican Rapids and East Grand Forks still to come.
The Jacks will return to the road for the first time in six games on Thursday with a second matchup against Moorhead in eight days following a 2-1 loss on Thursday in Bemidji. Gametime is scheduled for 7pm.
Postgame interview with Bemidji head coach Rick Toward: