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Prep boys soccer: After slow start, Hunters rally to top Hermantown

Duluth Denfeld struggled offensively in the first half, but scored four times in 10 minutes to advance to its third consecutive section final.

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Simon Davidson (14) of Duluth Denfeld heads the ball against Hermantown on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021, at Public Schools Stadium in Duluth. Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
CLINT AUSTIN

Throughout the first half of the Section 7A semifinal, Duluth Denfeld’s high-octane attack was held in check by Hermantown Thursday, Oct. 14, at Public Schools Stadium.

In the second half, however, the Hunters scored four goals in a 10-minute span — including the go-ahead goal on a Simon Davidson header — and scored a 4-1 win over the Hawks.

In the first half, Hermantown kept Denfeld’s attackers away from the goal and sophomore Nathan Hill caught Hunter goalkeeper Conrad Lazzaro away from the net and slipped a shot in to give the Hawks a 1-0 lead at halftime.

The game started to feel eerily similar to the Hawks’ 2-0 upset over Denfeld Oct. 7 at PSS.

“They started beating us to the ball and with that goal, they felt they had the momentum,” Denfeld coach Scott Anderson said. ”Our guys were panicking a little bit, they were making errant passes and they were not doing our game plan — they fell away from that.”

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In the second half, the Hunters changed things up a little bit and went on the attack, with Joe Eklund scoring in the 54th minute to tie the game.

“Right away from the kickoff, we pressed them so hard right away,” Davidson said. “I knew they had sort of started to relax and we just really had that momentum. We really wanted to get to the ball and Joe’s goal obviously changed everything.”

Less than 2 minutes later, Davidson put a pass from Skyler Fossum past Hawk goalkeeper Sterling Trok to give Denfeld the lead.

Denfeld kept the pressure on the Hermantown defense, with shots from Brayden Rock and Parker Chastey both sneaking over the goal line to give the Hunters a three-goal lead.

Hermantown coach Dave Thompson said his team was able to accomplish what it wanted to do early, but Denfeld’s offense presents a number of scoring threats.

“Part of the time we were trying to mark the individual players and part of the time we were just playing our formation,” Thompson said. “It worked for a lot of the game, but they’re a very talented team. After a while, with that many guys that can strike the ball so well, they find the net. Some of those goals were not emphatic, but if it crosses the line it still counts.”

Trok finished the game with seven saves and Lazzaro had five total.

With the win, Denfeld (13-4) will host Cloquet-Esko-Carlton at 8 p.m. Tuesday at PSS in a bid for back-to-back section titles. The Lumberjacks shut out Grand Rapids 2-0 in the other Section 7AA semifinal.

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The Hunters have squeaked out 1-0 wins over CEC each of the last two times they’ve played, including a matchup in the 2020 Section 7AA tournament.

“I expect a barnburner,” Anderson said. “The game we played this year they came out and just kept going and going. I think they got us on our heels a little bit in that game. They’re going to come in hungry on Tuesday, they’re going to be flying and we need to prepare for it.”

Thompson was happy with Hermantown’s (9-7-2) growth and improvement throughout the season.

“I’m actually really proud of our team this year,” Thompson said. “We try and have a team that has an upward trajectory as we go through that builds on itself and I felt like we did that all season long. We got better as the season went on and our seniors, especially, were great leaders and great role models for our younger guys.”

Hermantown 1-0—1

Duluth Denfeld 0-4—4

First half — 1. H, Nathan Hill, 16th.

Second half — 2. DD, Joe Eklund (Simon Davidson), 54th; 3. DD, Davidson (Skyler Fossum), 56th; 4. DD, Brayden Rock (Parker Chastey), 60th; 5. DD, Chastey, 63rd.

Saves — Sterling Trok, H, 7; Conrad Lazzaro, DD, 5.

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Related Topics: SOCCERHERMANTOWN
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