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Demons hold off Magicians for region soccer title
Yes, Bismarck let a 3-1 lead get away. But the Demons didn't let the West Region soccer tournament championship escape them.
Key goals by Michael Hertz and Hunter Johnson enabled Bismarck to outscore Minot 5-3 in Saturday's wild regional title game at the Mandan soccer complex.
Bismarck advances to next week's state tournament at Mandan seeded No. 1 from the West. Minot, the regular-season regional champion, moves on as the No. 2 seed. Also advancing in Saturday's action were No. 3 Century and No. 4 St. Mary's. Century blanked Mandan 4-0 and St. Mary's edged Jamestown 1-0 in state qualifying games.
After Minot stormed back from a 3-1 deficit on goals by Noah Melby and Avery Weishaar in the middle of the second period, Hertz arrested the Magician momentum.
Hertz was designated to take a penalty shot after senior forward John Ndabunguye was dumped while dribbling in the box in the Minot zone.
Hertz beat Minot goalie Jesse Roberts on a low shot inside the left post with 10:55 to play for what proved to be the game-winner. The senior midfielder now has three penalty-kick goals on the season.
"I've taken PKs before, but ... not with this much pressure," Hertz said. "I was just trying to hit it on frame and not let my nerves get to me."
Hertz said he may have to change his penalty kick strategy in next week's state tournament, because he's 3-for-3 using a now-familiar pattern -- low left.
"I haven't missed yet. I might have to change it up for state, but it's been working so far," he noted.
The championship game was intense and physical with four yellow cards issued, all in the second half. Hertz surmised that may have been the case because there was a lot at stake. It was the regional championship game, there were state pairings considerations to take into consideration and there's that long-standing Bismarck-Minot athletic rivalry.
Most importantly, however, there was pride involved.
"It was very intense and very energized," Hertz said. "We've played these guys and tied (1-1), and the second time we lost (2-1). We knew we were the better team, and we had to win to show it. ... Our away games at Minot are usually our most difficult games of the season. ... I'd say it's a pretty good rivalry."
Hertz said Saturday's victory was a vital milestone in Bismarck's season.
"We've been trying to put things together all season, and we finally did in this game. We're going to try and take that (momentum) into state," he observed.
Ndabunguye and Hertz sandwiched goals around a marker by Minot's Avery Weishaar to give the Demons a 2-1 halftime lead.
When Johnson scored just over 14 minutes into the second half, BHS appeared to be in control. It didn't take Minot long to demolish that notion, however.
Noah Melby scored on a header and Weishaar knocked in a long blast from the left wing, all in fewer than three minutes. Suddenly the game was tied.
But not for long. Hertz stepped to the fore, enabling Bismarck to again dictate the match terms of the game.
For all practical purposes, the match was a statistical draw, Bismarck outshooting Minot 15-14 in shots on goal and each team firing 21 total shots.