Blaine’s boys’ soccer players aren’t exactly keeping their ambitions a secret. It’s right there on the home page of their website, which tells readers how many days remain before the state Class AA championship game.
They didn’t do that as a public service – the state title game is Nov. 1, by the way – but because they plan to be on the Metrodome field that day.
With a deep roster filled with players that have state tournament experience, reaching the title game could be a realistic possibility for the Bengals this season. Going into this week’s play, they were 11-2-1 overall and ranked seventh in Class AA. They had not lost since Aug. 30, going 8-0-1 in their last nine games.
Blaine teams have gone to the state tournament 10 times overall, and Berry Arrowsmith has coached the last eight that made the trip.
Blaine has never reached the title game, and Arrowsmith said there’s a good reason for that.
“I’ve been at Blaine 14 years and we’ve been there eight times,” the coach said. “Seven of those eight times, we lost to the eventual champion.”
That includes last year, when the Bengals lost to Eden Prairie 4-1 in the quarterfinals. Eden Prairie went on to beat Eastview in the championship game.
“It didn’t help that our starting goalkeeper went out 10 minutes into the (state quarterfinal) game because of a concussion,” Arrowsmith said.
“It kind of left a bad taste, losing 4-1, and it taught our kids that they have to concentrate every game,” he said.
The Bengals went 3-2 in their first five games, losing to Coon Rapids and Minneapolis South, but have been rolling ever since.
The Bengals won seven straight since tying Elk River 2-2 on Sept. 11. In the process, Blaine beat No. 5 ranked and previously undefeated Park Center 3-1 on Sept. 19 and crushed No. 10 ranked Eagan 6-0 on Sept. 25.
“Our kids played really well as a team that night,” Arrowsmith said.
“Also, I think Eagan subbed only four guys the whole game, while I used my whole bench. I used 19 kids in the first half. We have a very deep bench, and we were able to keep coming at them.”
“We have four or five guys we rotate in the outside midfield, three in the center midfield that we rotate through, three guys in front and four or five on defense,” Arrowsmith said.
Blaine averages almost three goals per game, but it’s been a total team effort with most players with at least one goal or one assist.
“We don’t have the state’s leading scorer or anything,” Arrowsmith said.
“We have a group that really works well together. I think we have two kids who don’t have a point out of 20. That’s unheard of. A team can mark one guy, but they can’t mark us all.”
Asher Bates and Mitchell Boege lead the team with seven goals. Zachary Wright has helped out with five goals and four assists and Jason Scheeler has two goals and six assists.
Jeremiah Strand (five assists, three goals), Colton Nelson (five goals, two assists), Tyler Johnson (four goals, two assists), Ian Durbin (one goal, four assists), Noah Bruder (two goals, two assists) and TJ Soehn (two goals, two assists) have been keeping the opponents’ goal keepers nervous.
The Bengals’ defense has also held up its end allowing 0.8 goals per game.
After manning the goalie spot for the first 10 games with three shutouts and an .875 save percentage, Andrew Jacobs moved to midfield giving way to Tyler Carlson, who is 5-0 with a .938 save percentage.
Blaine shut out Centennial in a Northwest Suburban Conference game Tuesday afternoon. That 6-0 victory sends the Bengals into their regular-season finale against conference-leading Champlin Park with a chance to at least tie for the Northwest Suburban title.
Blaine is likely to be the No. 1 seed in the Section 7AA playoffs that begin Oct. 11.
Coon Rapids, one of the two teams that defeated the Bengals so far this season, looms as a potentially dangerous playoff opponent.
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