Facing a new opponent in a new conference arrangement with an almost entirely new team of players, Bemidji boys soccer started the 2020 season with a return to winning ways in a 3-1 defeat of Sauk Rapids-Rice at Chet Anderson Stadium in the first-ever boys soccer meeting between the two schools.
After graduating 11 influential seniors and 79 of the 87 goals they scored a season ago, much of the Lumberjacks’ early questions for their Central Lakes Conference opener surrounded who would get the goals in the new year. A quick answer was provided just three minutes into the action, as juniors Colten Pickett and Wylee Gladen connected for the latter to score his first goal at the varsity level.
Bemidji’s dominance of the opening exchanges of the game was matched by a rapid response from the Storm. Sauk Rapids’ top returning scorer Eli Moilanen was brought down for a foul in the penalty area and converted the ensuing spot kick past John McNallan for an almost immediate equalizer in the fifth minute.
The reply from Bemidji was a positive one, creating several chances in the buildup to the eventual match winner in the 11th minute. Aidan Spaeth’s persistence to keep possession down the right wing was rewarded, as he squared a perfect ball to the edge of the six-yard box for Pickett to convert and put Bemidji up 2-1.
Despite a blistering opening 11 minutes of pace and tempo, those elements dropped off as the half progressed with both teams still getting used to the first competitive match of the new season. The home team’s more consistent pressure was rewarded with a third goal in the 31st minute, with Michael Dickinson expertly finishing off an incisive cross from Noah Ricci.
Cycling in a variety of players seeing their first varsity action, Bemidji continued to threaten to add to the lead in the second half. Those chances produced several fine stops from Sauk Rapids-Rice goalkeeper Eli Rudnick, denying Marlondo Smith on a good chance in the second half.
Bemidji opens temporary life in the Central Lakes Conference with a victory and three points in the CLC standings ahead of a visit to St. Cloud Apollo on Tuesday. Gametime is at 7pm, with pregame at 6:45 on KBUN-FM 104.5 and kbunsportsradio.com.
Postgame interview with Bemidji head coach Rick Toward:
Central Lakes Conference Matchday 1 Results (home team listed first)
Willmar 1-3 St. Cloud Apollo
Brainerd 3-0 Fergus Falls
Alexandria 0-1 Sartell-St. Stephen
Moorhead 4-1 Rocori
Bye: St. Cloud Tech
Central Lakes Conference Standings
Moorhead 1-0-0 (3 pts)…4 GF, 1 GA
Brainerd 1-0-0 (3 pts)…3 GF, 0 GA
Bemidji 1-0-0 (3 pts)…3 GF, 1 GA
St. Cloud Apollo 1-0-0 (3 pts)…3 GF, 1 GA
Sartell St. Stephen 1-0-0 (3 pts)…1 GF, 0 GA
St. Cloud Tech 0-0-0 (0 pts)
Alexandria 0-1-0 (0 pts)…0 GF, 1 GA
Willmar 0-1-0 (0 pts)…1 GF, 3 GA
Sauk Rapids-Rice 0-1-0 (0 pts)…1 GF, 3 GA
Fergus Falls 0-1-0 (0 pts)…0 GF, 3 GA
Rocori 0-1-0 (0 pts)…1 GF, 4 GA