MOORHEAD — Moorhead’s boys lacrosse team won four games in its inaugural season two years ago. It was a year of firsts for the Spuds and the handful of players who were brand new to the sport.
After a one-year break because of the pandemic, they weren't sure what to expect heading into Year 2. The Spuds, who came on to the prep lacrosse scene in spring 2019, concluded their inaugural campaign with a 4-7 record.
“Going into this year, I’d say we didn’t really know what we were getting into right away, but it came together pretty quickly,” said Moorhead assistant John Deelstra.
At Moorhead, there are no growing pains.
In their third year of existence and second season of high school action, the Spuds (9-3) have more than doubled their number of first-year wins, and earned themselves a trip to the section championship.
The fourth-seeded Spuds knocked off top-seeded St. Michael-Albertville in the semifinals of the Class 1A, Section 8 tournament Monday. Moorhead clinched a berth in Wednesday’s section final with a 9-5 win over the Knights.
“It feels pretty good, because those guys were supposed to be the powerhouse of our section,” said Andrew Searls, a junior attack. “And a lot of people really didn’t think that we’d win, so I think it’s pretty cool we came out with one.”
The Spuds play third-seeded Buffalo (10-5) in the section championship at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Buffalo High School. The Bison beat sixth-seeded Monticello 17-11 in the quarterfinals and posted a 17-12 win over No. 2 seed Elk River in the semis.
“I think this one is kind of a matchup we were hoping for,” Deelstra said. “It’s been kind of like a revenge tour, playing STMA after getting our butts kicked by them and beating them. I’d say Buffalo is next on the list.”
Buffalo edged Moorhead 9-8 in the lone regular-season meeting between the teams. In 2019, the Bison ended Moorhead’s season in the Section 8A round of 16. Though, the Spuds aren’t dwelling on either loss.
“After our game in Buffalo at the start of the year, everyone has been talking about how we want to play them again,” Searls said. “I think everyone will be fired up, and it should be a fun game.”
The Spuds used a high-scoring fourth quarter on Monday to get past the Knights, who beat them 15-6 just over five weeks ago in the regular season. Moorhead opened the final semifinal frame with four unanswered goals. STMA cut the lead with two scores in the last three minutes, but the Spuds were too much to handle.
“Everyone was definitely hyped up on the bench and on the field,” said Gavin Feil, a sophomore defender. “With the final seconds winding down, you had to kind of step back and realize, ‘Hey, we really did it. We did what everyone thought we wouldn’t be able to do.'"
Deelstra gave credit to Spuds goalie Gavin Lindberg, whose “play has been outstanding throughout this tournament.” Lindberg also plays hockey for Moorhead.
Moorhead has enjoyed a rare level of success for a program so new. The Moorhead School Board voted to bring boys and girls lacrosse to the high school in June 2018.
The Spuds set the standard early on as they opened this season with three straight wins — outscoring their first three opponents by a combined 37-9.
They flew into the playoffs a bit under the radar, but have proved to be a team not to underestimate. The Spuds grabbed their first postseason win in program history with a dominant, 15-2 victory over No. 5 seed Becker in the quarterfinals last Thursday.
“Coming from Moorhead, in sports, we’ve always been a hard-working city overall,” said Feil, a defensive captain. “We’ve always kind of been the underdogs, not being in the (Twin Cities) area. We knew we’d have to work for it, that’s for sure.”
All three of Moorhead’s losses this season came during a three-game skid. The Spuds bounced back to win the next six games, and will be riding that six-game win streak into the section final.
“I think with some of the new schemes that were installed, the chemistry has just blossomed so much over the last couple of weeks,” Deelstra said. “They’ve really been able to mesh and know what each other is going to be doing.”
As they prepare for Wednesday’s matchup, it’s business as usual for the Spuds. The expectations remain the same.
“Just do the simple things,” Searls said.