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October 22, 2018

10/11/2018 2:31:00 PM
CL stops North Branch in rivalry

Chisago Lakes 2, North Branch 0
In last Thursday’s boys’ soccer rivalry game at Chisago Lakes High School, the Wildcats shadowed Viking senior forward Jose Flor for the entire game, with Wildcat junior Alex Bachmeier seemingly asked to do most of the dirty work.  Flor, the scoring leader for the Vikings and one of the top scorers in the state, barely touched the ball for the entire game.  The Wildcats scored twice and shut out the Vikings 2-0.

The Vikings controlled possession for much of the game, but didn’t really generate any offense, mostly because of the attention paid to Flor.  The Wildcats survived on a steady diet of counterattacks, sending through ball after through ball deep into the Viking zone.  But the Vikings played an offsides trap very well, thwarting about a dozen opportunities as the Wildcats were constantly called for offsides.
The Wildcats nearly got on the scoreboard just five minutes into the game.  Drew Hanson had the ball as Viking goalkeeper Josh Hindt came out to challenge him.  Hanson sent the ball around the charging Hindt toward the right front comer of the net.  The ball bounced squarely off the post and came back out to keep the game scoreless,  And in the 14th minute, the Wildcats headed a ball off the crossbar than bounced just outside the goal line and was knocked away.

The Wildcats earned a corner kick in the 30th minute.  From the right corner, Bryce Burds sailed the ball into the penalty area about four yards out from the goal line.  Jamie Mower easily headed it into the back of the net to give the Wildcats a 1-0 lead.  With a minute left in the half, Burds put another corner kick in the same spot, but there was too much traffic for anyone to get a head on the ball.  In the second half, in the 65th minute, Burds received a thru ball just barely onside.  Hindt came charging at him and Burds rolled the ball by him into the net to give the Wildcats a 2-0 lead and a little cushion.

There was some controversy in the 73rd minute.  The referee called a foul just outside the Wildcat penalty area.  The Vikings quickly set the ball and kicked it into the net, which they are allowed to do.  But the referees did not allow the goal.  Viking head coach Jake Borash protested.  The referee stopped the clock and went over to talk to Borash, who continued to protest vehemently.  Borash ended up getting a yellow card.  The ball was set at the top of the arc just outside the penalty area.  The Wildcats set up a wall.  Flor took the free kick, but blasted it right into the wall, negating a great scoring opportunity for the Vikings.  The Wildcats held on for the next seven minutes to claim the win.
Cloquet 5, North Branch 1
Cloquet scored twice in the first half and added three more goals in the second half to beat the Vikings 5-1 in the Vikings final regular season game.  Jose Flor scored the only goal for the Vikings, assisted by Noah Schwartzrock.  The game was played at North Branch High School on Saturday, October 6.

Section Preview
The North Branch Vikings (8-7-1)  earned the number four seed in this year’s Section 7A tournament, their highest seed since the Brian Grand Era of Viking soccer.  The Chisago Lakes Wildcats (6-7-1) were seeded seventh, just one year after Nils Gulbranson, Ryan Mower and goalkeeper Reece Lawlor led the Wildcats to their first-ever state tournament appearance.

The Vikings could go a long way in this tournament.  A lot of their success will depend on the play of star senior forward Jose Flor.  The Wildcats figured out a way to neutralize Flor when they played the Vikings last week and if other teams attempt to employ a similar strategy, the Vikings will be hard-pressed to score.  If Flor is shadowed up front, it may make sense to move him back to a center midfield position to give him a chance to possess the ball and do some damage, but it’s up to the brain trust in the North Branch coaches’ room to figure that out.

The Wildcats don’t have just one standout scorer this year.  Any success they have in the playoffs will depend at least somewhat on the play of Lawlor, the senior keeper.

The Vikings open the playoffs tonight against the 13th-seeded Mesabi East Giants.  The game will be played at North Branch High school starting at 7 p.m.  The Giants, who play as an independent, played just nine games in the regular season and finished 3-5-1.  The Vikings should easily be able to handle the Giants and, if they win, will move on to face the winner of fifth-seeded Hermantown (6-7-1) and 12th-seeded Zimmerman (5-9-0) this Saturday at home at a time yet to be determined.  A win on Saturday would put the Vikings, most likely, up against the top-seeded Duluth Denfeld Hunters next Tuesday, October 16 at Denfeld.  The Vikings lost 4-0 to Denfeld at Denfeld a couple of Saturdays ago.  Jon Faynik of Denfeld is one of the top scorers in the state, with 22 goals.

The Wildcats have a tougher road from the number seven hole.  They will take on the tenth-seeded PACT Charter School Panthers tonight at Chisago Lakes High School at 7 p.m.  If the Wildcats beat PACT, they will move on to face (most likely) the number two seed, the Grand Rapids Thunderhawks (10-4-1).  Grand Rapids shut out the Wildcats 3-0 at Grand Rapids in late August.

The section semifinals are Tuesday, October 16 and the final is Thursday, October 18 at Chisago Lakes High School.

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