For the second time in as many games between the Minot High School boys soccer team and St. Mary's, a draw was decided by a goal with just seconds left on the clock.
This time it was the Saints who scored with about six seconds remaining in the first half of Tuesday's 2-2 tie in both teams' West Region regular-season finale at Optimist Soccer Complex.
Earlier in the year, MHS junior Ekow Annan scored with 12 seconds left in the second half to help the Magicians to a 1-1 tie. St. Mary's senior forward Ben Weisbeck was the final goal scorer in the latest edition of the physical rivalry. The Saints (9-4-3 overall, 5-2-3 region) held onto the third seed for this weekend's West Region tournament and the Magicians (7-3-5, 4-2-4) remained in the fourth spot.
Minot High School junior Ty Johnson dribbles by St. Mary’s senior Christian Wanner in a 2-2 West Region tie Tuesday at Optimist Soccer Complex.
Weisbeck's second goal of the match came on a flukish, rushed shot from about 30 yards on a free kick. The two-sport standout - seen speaking with Minot State University basketball coach Matt Murken following the match - had little time to line up a service to a teammate and lofted the ball toward the upper right side of the frame. MHS senior goalkeeper Garrett Weishaar misjudged the ball and left his line too early. The ball sailed over the outstretched arms of Weishaar and proved the final score of the game.
"Time was running out, so I knew we didn't have much time left," Weisbeck said. "I saw I (could) try the shot and it was fortunate enough to go in."
The fast-paced game turned into a stalemate in the second half with MHS getting just one shot on goal and St. Mary's unable to place one on frame.
MHS junior and leading scorer Ekow Annan scored the first goal with a low shot to the left of St. Mary's junior goalkeeper Jordan Smith in the 13th minute. The score was set up by the dogged work of senior forward Jacob Schmidt, who dominated the right side of the field in the first half. Schmidt routinely dribbled by St. Mary's senior defender Daniel Neff, who stands about one foot taller, to create enough space for effective crosses into the box.
"I felt we kind of reverted away," Annan said. "I mean, (Schmidt) was tearing up that left back on the right side. I think if we could've just kept getting him the ball, he would've eventually gotten us a goal."
In the 21st minute, Smith made an incredible diving save to his left to push senior Ryan Crabtree's shot just outside the post. Weisbeck struck less than two minutes later on a low blast from just outside the MHS box on the right side. The pace was too much from the well-built striker and the ball cruised past a diving Weishaar and into the left side of the net.
St. Mary's was at its best when working the ball through the 6-foot-2 Weisbeck, who seldom needed to even use his arms to create space. The ball stayed glued to his feet as he dribbled effectively through the inside of the field.
"Size is huge for us up top with him," St. Mary's coach Peter Manstrom said. "It sometimes buys us time, but other times it's just he can muscle his way through."
MHS assistant coach Creighton Bachmeier was quick to praise Weishaar, who has kept the Magicians' often anemic offense in games throughout the season.
"It's a mistake that happens," Bachmeier said of the second St. Mary's goal. "It sucks that it's a mistake that costs you a win possibly because that was the equalizer, but Garrett's been phenomenal for us all year and I wouldn't pin that one thing on the outcome of this game. We've just been a team that's struggled to get that final goal."
Bachmeier took the lead as head coach Cody Saunders accompanied his wife, who was in labor with twins.
MHS retook the lead two minutes after the score was tied at 1-1 on another assist from Schmidt. Junior midfielder Malik Thom scored the goal after Crabtree hit Schmidt with a short lob on the right side. Schmidt continued to do what he does best and placed another solid cross to a hard-charging attacker.
"I thought our guys fought hard," Bachmeier said. "2-2 is a very good result, it's just too many of those results we've had throughout the season. You'd like a few in the win column, but tonight was a good step in the right direction coming into postseason play."
MHS had more quality opportunities in the second half and Weisbeck had the Saints' first shot of the final 40 minutes with about seven minutes remaining in the game. Weishaar misplayed a cross midway through the half and the ball went through his hands and was headed in the goal, but it was called off because of an illegal touch.
Junior defender Jay Gray headed away a corner kick with four minutes remaining to preserve the tie and thwart St. Mary's last good chance.
The Magicians play fifth-seeded Jamestown on Friday and the Saints play No. 6 Mandan. Game times are yet to be determined.
Tim Chapman covers Minot High School athletics. Follow him on Twitter @chapmatp.