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State boys soccer: Grand Forks Red River's late goal ousts defending champ Bismarck Century

Grand Forks Red Rivers' Grant Lelm scored a game-winner that Bismarck Century claims should have been called a hand ball in a state quarterfinal.

state boys soccer chs vs gfrr 100721.jpg
Bismarck Century's Anthony Cleary (18) and Brooks Turner (6) along with Connor Knutson of Grand Forks Red River go for a header in the North Dakota state boys soccer tournament quarterfinals on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021, at Rotary Field in Jamestown. John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun
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JAMESTOWN, N.D. — A controversial play in the final minutes of a North Dakota state boys soccer tournament quarterfinals game means there will be a new champion this year.

Grand Forks Red River's Grant Lelm deflected a loose ball into the net in the final minutes of regulation and the Roughriders took out 2020 champion Bismarck Century 2-1 on Thursday.

The Roughriders' Gannon Brooks put a corner kick into the box and after a brief scramble, Lelm said he bounced the ball into the net with 2 minutes, 13 seconds remaining.

"It was just a cluster (of players) and my teammate ahead of me (Connor Knutson) missed it and I was just in the right spot with my shoulder," Lelm said. "I put my shoulder into it. It was crazy."

That wasn't how Century saw the play, said head coach Ryan Okerson. They saw a hand ball.

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"We had a perfect view of it," said Okerson, whose bench was in front of the net in question. "He directed it in with his arm. We didn't play well enough, they did. That's what happens when you let the official make the outcome of the game."

Both of GFRR's goals weren't exactly garden variety. Roughrider Hunter Robertson was credited when a Century attempt to clear the ball in the box hit a Patriots player and ricocheted in for an own goal with 6:29 left in the first half.

Century was generating some chances but nothing was finding paydirt until Kaiden Campbell tied the game with a goal with 19:56 remaining in the game.

Century had experienced that before this season, Okerson said.

"We started really slow this year," he said. "We didn't find the back of the net much. In the middle of the season, we kind of found our groove, started moving the ball and finding the back of the net a little bit more, had some more success. That lasted until last weekend (a 10-2 win over Dickinson in the WDA state qualifiers), and then today. We didn't create the opportunities and didn't do what we trained to do."

Roughriders coach Luke Gasoe said a 3-2 loss to Century in the state quarterfinals last year was plenty of motivation as his team prepared for this season.

"We had a little bit of a chip on our shoulders," Gasoe said. "We knew we were competitive with them last year and this year's team is better than last year's, so we were confident. I think the heartbreak of what happened last year for these guys left a pretty bad taste. I think they've wanted this for quite awhile. They had a year to dwell on these things."

Gasoe was concerned his team was losing steam as the tie game wore on, but the late-game corner lifted spirits.

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"We were lacking a little energy in the second half," Gasoe said, "so if we can win a corner kick, that gives us a pretty good chance to score. It worked out."

And Lelm might still be trying to make sense of the events that led to his game-winner.

"Going into this game, I was a little nervous, I'm not going to lie," Lelm said. "When it comes to the end of games (Century) is willing to fight and I have a lot of respect for them. Everything happened so fast. First thing it's the corner and next thing I just found the ball. Just a surreal moment."

Related Topics: SOCCER
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