Andover boys soccer will join the girls team at the state tournament after the Huskies (14-4-1) downed No. 4-seed Centennial 2-1 in overtime Oct. 15.
For the second time in three years, Andover reached the section final. The Huskies lost the 2011 section final at Blaine 2-0 to finish with an 11-7-1 record.
This year, senior Emmanuel Ekunseitan scored the decisive goal seven minutes into overtime. Andover coach John Schlitchmann described Ekunseitan’s goal as, “magical with the ball.” He took a player or two down the sideline and put a shot over a charging Centennial goalie, inside the far post.
Centennial was riding an emotional high after eliminating top-seed Blaine three days earlier, 2-1, and scored first against the No. 2-seeded Huskies with 20 minutes left in regulation.
“I don’t know about the kids but I certainly did,” Huskies coach John Schlitchmann said about feeling the pressure to score quickly after the Cougars went up 1-0.
Andover sophomore Armin Bobaric scored his 10th goal of the season to tie the game 12 minutes from the end of regulation in another high-pressure situation. He helped the Huskies beat No. 3-seed Duluth East with an overtime goal in the 95th minute after opening sections with a 6-1 win against St. Francis Oct. 10. Bobaric’s overtime winner against Duluth East developed from a well-placed chip over the Greyhounds defense by Brad Williams before Bobaric let the ball bounce one time and then he ripped a riffling shot under the crossbar into the far side of the goal.
Centennial started strong in Tuesday’s pressure-filled section final, glancing a shot off a post in the first half. Andover controlled the ball more in the second half and senior captain Andrew Bird hit a post on a breakaway.
This is the second time Andover made it to the state soccer tournament after qualifying for the Class A tournament in 2004.
“It’s awesome for the kids, and we hope it means something for the program in the future,” Schlitchmann said. “We hope kids in the area get excited about [soccer] and right now we want to enjoy what these guys have accomplished.”
Schlitchmann noted the strength of the Northwest Suburban Conference in the overall Minnesota soccer landscape, as potentially five different teams can claim a place in the state tournament field over the past two seasons, including Anoka, Blaine, Maple Grove, Elk River and Andover.
Top-seed and top-ranked Blaine was upset by No. 4 Centennial 2-1 in the Section 7AA semifinals Oct. 12 on a blustery Bengals Stadium field. With the wind at their backs, the Cougars (10-5-2) scored on a free kick from 40-45 yards away and added an own-goal by the Bengals to build the 2-0 lead.
Blaine struggled to find a way back into the game, but Zach Brunko headed home a cross from Nathaniel Jacobson 10 minutes from full time to make it 2-1.
Blaine won the previous meeting against Centennial, 2-0 Oct. 1.
“The boys were pretty disappointed, I’m not going to lie, and I’m disappointed we’re still not playing, but I’m OK with it,” Bengals head coach Berry Arrowsmith said as the Bengals finished the season 13-3-2 overall, 7-1-2 first place in the Northwest Suburban Conference. “We had our chances in the end with Asher Bates, Jason Scheeler and Jordy Hagen were pushing forward at the end, but credit Centennial for not giving us time to pass the ball.
“We didn’t take any shots when we had a 30-mile-an-hour wind at our backs in the first half.”
Blaine’s defense held the Cougars up in the first half, limiting its chances to cross midfield to three times while the offense struggled to find room to maneuver against a well-organized Centennial defense.
“We kept possession, but there weren’t any really good opportunities for us. They did a good job putting bodies behind the ball,” Arrowsmith said.
Scheeler led the team with 31 points and 12 goals while Asher Bates had 22 points (eight assists) and Jeremiah Strand had 18 points and a team-high 10 assists. Tyler Johnson gave the Bengals four players with at least 10 points (four goals).
Goalie Alex Beck made 67 saves with an 0.86 goals against average with seven shutouts in 1,210 minutes.
“It was a fun season, but it was sad to see them turn in their uniforms, but there isn’t anything you can do about it now,” Arrowsmith said.
Jason Olson is at