A floated cross-shot goal from Wylee Gladen was enough for North #3 seed Bemidji to secure passage into the quarterfinals of the Section 8A boys soccer playoffs with a 1-0 win over #6N Fergus Falls in a first round match Monday evening at Chet Anderson Stadium.
The Lumberjacks were dominant from the kickoff and rarely threatened defensively on their way to the season’s second shutout in as many games, but squandered a collection of opportunities on goal and faced stiff resistance from the Otters’ defense.
Though guilty of missing high and wide of goal with more frequency as the game progressed, Bemidji also was denied by stout goal line defending by Otters defenders. Off a corner, Gladen had a header blocked off the line before Ryan Rautio was also stopped as Bemidji brought waves of attacks in the opening 10 minutes of play.
It seemed unlikely that it would be the lone goal of the night after the early chances, but Gladen’s match-winner came in the 20th minute in unusual fashion. Marlondo Smith’s layoff found Gladen on the right flank, and the forward whipped in a cross toward the back post that dipped over Otters goalkeeper Ian Stumbo off the left post and into the net.
Undeterred, the senior Stumbo was called into action with more frequency later in the first half, among them a parry of Michael Dickinson’s stinging drive on the edge of the 18-yard box.
Bemidji’s 1-0 lead remained mostly secure going into the second half, though Fergus Falls matched the Lumberjacks in threatening the final third early in the second half. The visitors would not record a shot on target until four minutes remaining in regulation, but still remained in touching distance thanks to resolute defending throughout the night.
The hosts felt they had won a penalty midway through the second half when Noah Johnson went down in the penalty area with defenders converging behind him after racing through on goal. However, the center referee waved off the appeal for a spot kick and the Lumberjacks could not convert on two rapid-fire shots that followed.
The decision was compounded by Bemidji’s sizable count of fouls called against in comparison to the Otters, though further frustration came in the form of more second half misses and a failure to capitalize on an astounding 15 corner kicks. Wil King came close to converting from one of them, rifling a strike just past the top corner.
More big chances came without the final effort going on target. Wingback Casey Hiller put a golden chance wide and high later in the second half, and Colten Pickett also missed the mark on a first-time shot from the top of the box.
Ultimately, Gladen’s goal was all that was required for Bemidji to advance, as Fergus Falls’ final attacks did not threaten the Lumberjack backline.
The final shot tally stood at an astounding 32-2 in favor of Bemidji, with a 16-1 difference in shots on goal. Stumbo provided 12 of the saves with three credited to members of his defense, while Westin Gourneau made no saves in the first half and John McNallan tallied one in the second for the Lumberjacks.
Bemidji’s win takes the Lumberjacks into a quarterfinal matchup with usual Lakes to Prairie Conference foe and North #2 seed East Grand Forks, who narrowly advanced past #7N Crookston by a 2-1 scoreline on Monday. Their Thursday quarterfinal will be at East Grand Forks at a time to be determined.
Postgame interview with Bemidji head coach Rick Toward:
Section 8A Boys Soccer Bracket
First Round (high seed hosts)
#1N Pelican Rapids 10-0 #8N Hillcrest Lutheran
#4N Detroit Lakes 0-4 #5N Alexandria
#2N East Grand Forks 2-1 #7N Crookston
#3N Bemidji 1-0 #6N Fergus Falls
#1S St. Cloud Cathedral win by forfeit over #9S Rocori
#4S Little Falls 1-4 #5S Sartell-St. Stephen
#2S St. Cloud Tech 1-0 #7S Sauk Rapids-Rice
#3S St. Cloud Apollo 7-1 #6S Minnewaska
Quarterfinal (high seed hosts; all games Thursday)
#1N Pelican Rapids v. #5N Alexandria
#2N East Grand Forks v. #3N Bemidji
#1S St. Cloud Cathedral v. #5S Sartell-St. Stephen
#2S St. Cloud Tech v. #3S St. Cloud Apollo