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Prep soccer: Finally at full strength, Duluth East blanks Bemidji

The Greyhounds started the season with several injuries, culminating in a loss at Blaine earlier where they were missing seven of 11 starters.

High school boys soccer players in red uniforms playing players in white uniforms outdoors
Pete Onchwari (11) of Duluth East celebrates a goal against Bemidji on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022, at Ordean Stadium in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — Midway through the first half in Duluth East’s 4-0 home win over Bemidji Thursday, Callum Greenan scored to give the Greyhounds the lead.

The goal, however, wasn’t exactly what he intended when the ball came to him off a corner kick.

“I play center back, so I don’t get a lot of opportunities,” Greenan said. “But recently, I’ve been pushing up more and taking a lot more set balls…The corner bounced right in front of me and, I’m not gonna lie, I was not aiming for the goal. I completely mishit it and it just looped up and went right in.”

East wasn’t just lucky, however. The team controlled possession and dominated the ball, with senior Grady Downs scoring three minutes later and Evan Craycraft and Pete Onchwari each added goals in the second half.

Greyhound goalkeeper Jack Ringsred needed to make only four saves to preserve the shutout.

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High school boys soccer players in red uniforms playing players in white uniforms outdoors
Dane Patten (6) of Duluth East takes to the air to control the ball against Jacob Stanoch (5) of Bemidji on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022, at Ordean Stadium in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

After graduating 17 seniors from the 2021 team that ended its season in the Class AAA semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, the Greyhounds are starting with an almost entirely new team and formation.

The Greyhounds dominated possession in the second half, but were unable to get a clean look to tie the game against Rosemount.

“We’ve got a new path this year,” coach Corey Bachand said. “We have to play better with the ball, we have to be more protective. We have to play better defense first and then attack. We’re just starting to grow with that and understanding that it’s just a different mindset that we’ve had in the past when we could just attack, attack, attack.”

While Greenan and Downs both have some varsity experience, the majority of the Greyhounds’ roster is playing its first varsity minutes in 2022.

High school boys soccer players in red uniforms playing players in white uniforms outdoors
William Cranston (5) of Duluth East pressures Bemidji goalkeeper Connor Helm on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022, at Ordean Stadium in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Even more of a challenge, several East starters have been injured in the early going. In their second game of the season — a 4-0 loss to Blaine Aug. 26 — the Greyhounds were without seven of 11 starters.

In fact, Bachand said the game against Bemidji was the first time he had seen all 11 starters on the field together this season.

Onchwari is playing his first varsity minutes for the Greyhounds, but already has two goals and has been a pleasant surprise for Bachand.

High school boys soccer players in red uniforms playing players in white uniforms outdoors
Pete Onchwari (11) of Duluth East takes control of the ball against Bemidji on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022, at Ordean Stadium in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

“Pete’s kind of this unspoken hero that just gets it done,” Bachand said. “It’s been so nice to have that, too, because he came out of nowhere. I didn’t expect to have him and he’s just getting it done.”

Other than the Blaine loss, the Greyhounds’ new formation has allowed just one goal in four games and Ringsred isn’t being peppered with shots, which is the point, according to Onchwari.

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High school boys soccer players in red uniforms playing players in white uniforms outdoors
Ryan Christensen (9) of Duluth East heads the ball against Isaac Stone (8) of Bemidji on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022, at Ordean Stadium in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

“Our goalie barely had to do anything today,” Onchwari said. “That’s basically our goal — not to let our goalie ever touch the ball and I’d say our formation has done pretty well helping out defense.”

Greenan said he knew it would be different this season, but the East defenders have been stepping up to the challenge.

“Our big thing is just defending in layers,” Greenan said. “We really like to press the forwards high. If they get beat, then we have our midfielders covering and it just keeps going back and back.”

High school boys soccer players in red uniforms playing players in white uniforms outdoors
William Smith (12) of Duluth East moves the ball past Jonathan Devescovi (11) of Bemidji on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022, at Ordean Stadium in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Despite the roster turnover from an extraordinarily talented 2021 team, Bachand thinks the Greyhounds are “right there” in terms of returning to the state tournament for the second straight year.

“It’s just a matter of fine tuning what we need to do and the kids believing in the new concept,” Bachand said. “If they do that, I believe it’s unlimited for us. I really do because we play a certain type that people don’t like to play against and we’re hard defensively. Cal does a great job in the middle and we score when we have the opportunities to crash the new hard.”

Duluth East (4-1) will play Moorhead at home at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.

High school boys soccer players in red uniforms playing players in white uniforms outdoors
Derek Allison (2) of Duluth East moves the ball past Brady Riley (7) of Bemidji on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022, at Ordean Stadium in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
More from Jamey Malcomb
The Thunderhawks didn’t lose a single player off the squad that went to the state tournament last year and this time, they’re hoping to do “some damage” in Minneapolis this season, according to senior guard Taryn Hamling.

Jamey Malcomb has a been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
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