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Demon soccer team aiming high
Given Bismarck's soccer legacy, which includes four state titles in eight championship games and 12 other placing teams, the Demons tend to aim high.
The 2019 season, which begins Saturday, is no exception.
Andy Foss, who has led BHS to two state titles in his first four seasons as head coach, is well aware of the situation.
"You always shoot for a state title. ... Any time you get to the state tournament and play in the semifinal game it's an achievement, but the expectation around here is to compete for a state title," Foss said.
The Demons placed fourth in the state last fall, losing to Fargo Davies 1-0 in the semifinals and falling to arch-rival Century in the third-place game. They were 11-5-2 for the season.
BHS lost seven seniors from that team, but the other West Region coaches seem to believe the Demons have enough returning firepower to be potent again.
Bismarck finished atop this season's coaches' poll with 34 points, drawing five of the seven first-place votes. Century, second with 31 points, and Legacy, fifth with 18, drew one first-place vote each.
Foss says there are pluses and minuses for a team that polls well.
"I don't put a whole lot of stock in preseason ratings. ... We just want to get better every game and play our best at the end of the year," Foss observed. "There will always be a target on our backs, but our being picked to win the West isn't going to intimidate our guys. ... It's nice to have the respect of the other teams."
Bismarck's nucleus of returnees includes two returning all-region and all-state players. Senior Mason Stotz, a first-team all-state player, scored 13 goals and had two assists. Senior Michael Matthews, a second-team all-state selection, accumulated nine goals and five assists.
Seven other returning Demons tallied points last season. Junior Rodrigue Mugisha scored five goals and assisted on six. Senior Mikane Aberle had four goals and two assists in 2018. Others who registered in last year's scoring are senior Zach Devine with a three goals and two assists, junior Mason Weigel (1-2), senior Will Jawadi (2-1), sophomore Ethan Stotz (1-0) and junior Edwin Rasidovic (0-1).
Those returnees accounted for 38 of Bismarck's 49 goals last season.
In the net BHS returns senior Easton Ford, who stopped 135 shots and notched five shutouts as the regular keeper last season. His understudy is sophomore Dominic Jochim.
Statistics notwithstanding, Foss expects to have additional offensive help for Mason Stotz and Matthews this season. He cites the potential for offensive balance as a BHS upside.
"We can bring diversity to our attack. ... We don't want to rely on one or two guys carrying the load. We'll have elite-level talent out there, but we don't have to rely on a couple of guys," he observed.
Foss expects the Demons to develop into a team that can be competitive with anyone.
"All-around I think we'll be a solid team and a talented team. But talent doesn't always win. We've got to be sure to show up and play well every game," Foss said. "... Soccer in North Dakota is growing. Most schools are able to field pretty competitive teams."
Bismarck opens its season in a crossover tournament in Jamestown. The Demons play Fargo North at 11 a.m. on Saturday and meets Grand Forks Red River at 2 p.m.
Neither of those teams made it to the state tournament last season, but Foss isn't expecting a pair of blowouts.
"They should be two good games for us to learn about ourselves, and that's mainly what we want to get out of it," he said. "They won't be walkovers."
On Tuesday BHS dives into West Region action in a big way.
"We start out with a tough one," Foss noted. "We're going up to Minot."
Minot boasts a program that's seldom down. That's why the Magicians have played in nine straight state tournaments.
-Steve Thomas - Bismarck Tribune