Blaine (15-3-1) and Champlin Park (16-1-1) met to decide the Northwest Suburban Conference boys’ soccer championship Oct. 4. Champlin Park came from behind to win 5-3 and leave the Bengals with a sour taste in their mouth heading into sections. Blaine had led 3-1 in the second half before the Rebels rallied for four goals inside 20 minutes for the win.
Twenty-one days later the two teams met again, this time in the Class AA state quarterfinals where Bengals senior forward Mitch Boege scored twice in the second half en route to a 2-1 win over top-seeded Champlin Park at Park Cottage Grove High School Oct. 25.
Rebels coach Gavin Pugh wasn’t discouraged by his team’s effort, but rather the lack of finishing chances. “We were dominant in the first half, but fair credit to Blaine, they picked up a couple goals from two free kicks and scrappy, second [chance] balls,” he said. “So you know, we’re proud of the boys. We weren’t broken down tonight, we had more chances and on the whole I felt we outplayed them, but at the end of the day we couldn’t get it done.”
The Rebels entered the tournament averaging 2.6 goals per game and giving up 0.63 goals per contest. Twelve different players scored goals, led by junior Sidney McClain with 20 goals.
Boege admitted after the game he was looking for even more goals against some of his best friends wearing the opposite jersey. “It was interesting. I was hoping for four goals but two did the job, so I left it at that,” he said. “I play with all these guys in the summer. They’re probably my best buddies, but this was my third year coming to state and we lost in the first round both times so it’s going to be nice playing at the Dome. We’re coming for the title for sure.”
Champlin Park senior Estaban Arias intercepted a poor goal kick by Blaine in the 30th minute. He took a touch to position himself for a shot and let loose on a blast into the left corner of the Blaine goal from 25 yards out for his seventh goal of the season.
Pugh noted Arias’ strong presence in the penalty box to receive the ball and hold it, while teammates rush forward. “He’s quite a leader for us and we can build games around him,” Pugh said.
The Rebels looked to be in control of the game in the first half with counter attacks and a building offense that generated several corner kicks and scoring chances, but the Bengals defense stayed composed and in position.
Boege tied the game for Blaine in the 52nd minute when he positioned himself perfectly trailing the play to redirect a one-timer into the goal. Bengals sophomore Tyler Johnson set up the scoring play as his free kick glanced off the head of a Rebels player in the wall and rolled to the right of the goal where Ian Derban, aware of the situation, rolled the crossing pass into the path of Boege for his 14th goal of the season.
Boege drew another free kick from a dangerous position just outside the penalty box. Blaine junior Jacob Scheeler’s shot was pushed off the far post to Boege, who buried the rebound in the roof of the net with 21:35 left.
“I typically get my goals by going through the gaps in the defense and finding the slot and luckily I got a rebound off the second one,” Boege said.
That confidence to finish strong isn’t limited to scoring but all the aspects of the game.
Blaine coach Berry Arrowsmith said the biggest difference about this year’s squad is its maturity to know what is needed. “We practiced a couple different formations yesterday at practice,” he said. “I flat out asked them what they wanted to do and they wanted to play the same 4-4-2 formation because that’s what they felt familiar with.
“I said, ‘Alright. We’ll do that.’ So we worked on marking schemes and told them who to cover and they did a good job today.
“They’re very self-motivated. They work hard. They warm up. I had guys telling me they were cramping up so they needed to come out. They weren’t waiting for me to tell them and that’s what we try to teach them. They know their bodies better than we do.
Rebels senior midfielder Emmanuel Egbujor was the targeted man for Blaine after burying the Bengals with multiple goals Oct. 4. “So we had to drop our outside midfielder to help and it worked,” Arrowsmith said.
Blaine returns to the Metrodome for the first time since 2005 when it finished with the fourth-place trophy. The Bengals lost to eventual champion Wayzata in what Arrowsmith described as one of the best games of the tournament by 1-0 in the semifinal round. Wayzata scored with 26 seconds left in overtime for the 1-0 score. Minneapolis South hung on to beat Blaine 4-3 in the third-place game after the Bengals rallied to score three times in the second half.