Century won the rubber match with BHS and as a result the big prize.
Chance Bowlinger scored the game-winning goal in the 72nd minute as the Patriots edged Bismarck 3-2 for the state soccer title at Fargo South High School. It was the third meeting of the season between the crosstown rivals, all decided by one goal. Century won two of the three.
“It’s always a big game when we play BHS. Today, there was even more at stake,” Bowlinger said. “We have a ton of respect for BHS. I know a lot of players on their team. My teammates know a lot of their players. We just had to go out there and do what we had to do. It was really intense and we’re pumped to get it done.
“After six years it feels really good to break the curse.”
It was Century’s first state title since 2013 and fifth overall. The Demons were going for their second straight championship and sixth all time.
“It was actually a very, very well contested game from both sides,” said Century coach Ryan Okerson said. “The Demons had their run of play, we had our run of play. It was very fun to watch.”
Century never trailed, but the lead was never more than one.
“We got our first goal, they evened it up. We got our second goal, they evened it up again. We were able to get out third and they were unable to even it up,” Okerson said. “We know how good BHS is. We expected a tough, down-to-the-end game and that’s what it was.”
Steady senior defender Connor Hyslop started the scoring. Hyslop got on top of a feed from Kenneth Brako and headed it home for a 1-0 lead.
The Demons knotted it up in the 33rd minute on a header by Dom Williams and it stayed 1-1 into halftime.
Just over 2 minutes into the second half, Century scored.
Brako created another scoring chance for the Patriots. The skilled senior forward found Bowlinger, who finished into the right corner.
“It was a really nice through ball by Brako. I was able to get a good touch and then a pretty good shot,” Bowlinger said.
Again, the Demons answered. Christian Tanefeu’s header found the foot of Owen Haase in front of the net and Haase did not miss, tying the game at 2-all in the 52nd minute.
Bismarck was coming off a hard-fought 2-1 win over West Fargo in the semifinals, while Century rolled 6-0 over West Fargo Sheyenne’s junior varsity after coronavirus exposure prevented the Mustangs’ first team from playing. Okerson was able to rest his starters for much of the second half in Friday's game.
“There was no reason we should have been outworked by BHS. They had one heckuva game against West Fargo where they battled and had some hard hits in that game,” Okerson said. “I tip my hat to BHS. They came out and left everything they had on the pitch.”
With time winding down in the second half, the Patriots pulled ahead.
Nikko Helderop threaded a pass to Bowlinger who scored under duress with less than 8 minutes remaining.
“There was a lot of traffic with purple jerseys around me,” Bowlinger said. “I was able to get off a good shot with my left foot.”
He wasn’t sure that would seal it, however.
“I was hoping my first one would be the game-winner, but BHS has a lot of good players and they kept fighting,” Bowlinger said. “We really had to earn it.”
Century made the lead stick, capping a whirlwind week which included a 2-1 loss to BHS in the West Region championship game, a 10-round penalty kick shootout over Grand Forks Red River in the quarterfinals and a semifinal match against a JV team.
“It was a rollercoaster season in many ways, just with all the uncertainty that we were dealing with and that every team was dealing with,” Okerson said. “We thought this group had really good character, led by our seniors. With everything that ended up happening throughout the season, that was really important, and for it to end like this, credit to our kids. It’s a special group.”
Reach Tribune sports editor Dave Selvig at (701) 250-8246 or email@example.com
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