It was only a matter of time before Bismarck Century broke through with the game-winning goal in Friday night's 1-0 West Region victory over the Minot High School boys soccer team at Optimist Soccer Complex.
Century senior midfielder Brandon Eckroth broke the scoreless tie in the 68th minute off a rebound in front of the net. Senior midfielder Jeff Gendreau earned the assist on the play. Gendreau fired a shot off a free kick from the right side of the Minot net that deflected off the nearside post and spun toward the center of the box. Eckroth was left uncontested to direct the ball into the net.
"You keep shooting and it goes over the net or goes wide and sometimes you don't want to stick with it," Eckroth said. "But that's what we do. We're a strong, older team. We have a lot of seniors and juniors and were able to stick with it."
Minot High School freshman forward Matt Oswalt, front, and sophomore midfielder K.J. Wright, center, battle two Century players for possession of the ball during a 1-0 victory for the Patriots on Friday at Optimist Soccer Complex.
After a balanced first half, the Patriots dominated the second half, outshooting the Magicians 7-2.
"The second half we really slowed the game down and we started spreading it out wide more," Century coach Nate Ulness said. "Quick tic-tac passes to wear them down was our main focus for the second half."
As the sun set, so did Minot's offense, as it couldn't find an answer to Century's defense in the final 40 minutes. Minot's best scoring opportunities came on set plays. Minot senior forward P.K. Annan couldn't connect on the few opportunities he had on set pieces.
Both teams had their chances in the first half, but timely goalkeeping and near misses kept the two teams scoreless.
"It's a tough team," Minot coach Cody Saunders said. "We'll learn from it. We're definitely going to bounce back. We just didn't shoot enough."
The Patriots (2-0-1 overall, 2-0 region) tested Minot's defense early with kick strikes early in the game. Minot junior goalkeeper Garrett Weishaar played well in net, fending off heavy pressure in front. Century senior forward Alec Rauhauser had a few chances to score the game's first goal, but Weishaar made a key save in the 17th minute to keep the Patriots off the board.
The Magicians (1-1-1, 0-1) best scoring opportunity of the game came in the 30th minute. MHS sophomore midfielder Jacob Richter served a pass from the right side of the Century net into the box, where junior defender Matt MacArthur connected cleanly on a header. But MacArthur's header was denied by a sprawling save from Century senior goalkeeper Mason Buchholz.
"It was just a reaction save," Buchholz said. "We have a great defense and it's just a matter of if they slip up it's my job to keep the ball out of the net."
The Magicians play Mandan at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Optimist Soccer Complex.