Jesus Moreno’s 71st-minute goal was the decisive tally as Pelican Rapids advanced to its first-ever Section 8A boys soccer final with a 1-0 victory over Bemidji in a Section semifinal game yesterday at Alexandria High School, ending a run of four consecutive appearances in the final for the Lumberjacks.
After both teams had reached the semifinal by way of double overtime victories, the game was predictably tight in the first half with few chances generated. John McNallan started in goal for the Lumberjacks and needed to come up with a decisive sliding stop to deny Moreno at close range after he had fanned on an initial attempt to shoot.
At the other end of the field, Bemidji attempted to play through the speed of forwards Wylee Gladen and Colten Pickett to threaten the Vikings’ defense, with the latter fashioning a chance midway through the half.
McNallan was again called into action in the last ten minutes of the first half, getting down sharply to deny Sebastian Centeno at close range after a corner kick from the Vikings.
Bemidji started the second half on the front foot, creating opportunities off both flanks using pace and quickness in possession. A free kick also provided a chance for Casey Hiller to make a darting run from the left back spot, but his first-time effort landed in the hands of Pelican Rapids goalkeeper Sebastian Rosiles.
Michael Dickinson was a constant threat during the second half, but could not test Rosiles directly with an effort on target. One of his best chances came on a break down the left side that he flashed across goal and wide from a sharp angle.
Ultimately, the match-winner came about with just under 10 minutes remaining in regulation. Khadar Ibrahim sliced through Bemidji’s midfield on a mazy run before springing Moreno in on the right side. He clipped a finish over McNallan at close range to put Pelican Rapids on the brink of reaching the final.
The result was the sixth 1-0 match the Lumberjacks played during the course of the season, with Bemidji losing four such games–though it had advanced into the semifinal by way of consecutive 1-0 victories.
The Lumberjacks end their season 5-7-1 and graduate nine seniors from the program: Michael Dickinson, Josh Wright, Silas Bitter, Ryan Rautio, Marlondo Smith, Noah Ricci, Aiden Spaeth, Justin White, and Josh Nyberg.