Lincoln Schmitt’s long-range effort with 19 seconds remaining in extra time boosted Bemidji boys soccer to a dramatic 4-3 victory against Duluth Denfeld in a topsy-turvy home opener for the Lumberjacks on Saturday afternoon at the Bemidji Middle School.
Bemidji started on the front foot in the game’s first ten minutes, but the opening goal belonged to Denfeld in the 13th minute. Trouble clearing a corner kick gave the ball to Hunters defender Derek Mayne, who slotted a tidy finish through a crowd of players.
Chances continued to be fashioned by Denfeld following the opener, forcing Jacks goalkeeper Connor Helm into a stunning double save–including on a point-blank chance–just a few minutes later.
The Lumberjacks knocked on the door without creating shots on goal for much of the first half, including a chance for Reed Johnson that was shut down by onrushing Denfeld goalkeeper Camden Rask.
It was Johnson who fashioned Bemidji’s equalizer in the 36th minute after an incisive ball from Schmitt found him galloping down the right flank. Cutting inside onto his preferred left foot, the sophomore winger beat Rask at his near post to draw the Lumberjacks level late in the first half.
Just three minutes later, Bemidji found itself going to halftime with the lead. Taevon Welle’s strike from outside the penalty area could only be parried by Rask, giving senior Jacob Stanoch the chance to pounce on the rebound from a tight angle.
Stanoch completed a remarkable stretch of three goals in six minutes for the Lumberjacks a mere two minutes into the second half when he slotted past the onrushing Rask after a clipped ball through from Isaac Stone.
Denfeld’s response to the 3-1 deficit it now faced was swift and powered by the combination of Parker Chastey and Gus Haugen. Chastey’s lobbed free kick fell to the feet of Haugen for a simple finish since the six-yard box, pulling the Hunters within 3-2 just three minutes after Stanoch’s second goal.
Bemidji thought it had quickly hit back with a diving header from Nick Rautio on a cross to the back post, but the linesman’s flag denied him the outstanding finish.
It was only moments later in the 51st minute that Denfeld had the ball in the net to level the match at three, getting a driving run from Chastey into the area that set up Haugen for another close-range strike.
The wild sequence of five goals in 15 minutes on either side of halftime was followed by a comparatively quiet rest of regulation in the goalscoring department, despite both teams still creating chances end to end. Stanoch’s bid to complete his hat-trick came up short on two separate occasions, most notably on an effort that whistled past the post by fractions.
The two five-minute extra time periods were just about expired when Bemidji bagged the winner in the 90th minute on a bolt from 25 yards provided by the sophomore Schmitt. After Stone had maintained possession out of a sideline throw-in, he squared backward for Schmitt to fire a dipping effort over Rask that sent the large home crowd into delight.
Denfeld finished with a 13-11 advantage in shots on goal, but Helm recorded 10 saves to help steer Bemidji to the last-gasp victory.
The Lumberjacks (3-3) will remain home for the next four games, starting with a Tuesday match against Detroit Lakes at 5pm from the Bemidji Middle School.
Postgame interview with Bemidji head coach Rick Toward: