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Published October 13 2010

ND state boys soccer: Resilient West Fargo ready to make some noise at state

The West Fargo boys soccer team got used to battling Grand Forks Central for one of the final state tournament spots from the East Region in recent years.

So Packers coach Doug Millar thought his team had turned a corner with a convincing 8-0 win against the Knights in late September.

However, there was a letdown. And West Fargo needed a 2-1 win against Fargo South last Friday to secure a state tourney berth.

“We made it tougher than it probably needed to be,” said Packers coach Doug Millar, whose team will take on Bismarck in the first round of this week’s state tournament in Grand Forks. “We had some kids who maybe lost a little bit of confidence in their ability on the field. But it was still there.”

With the thought that the postseason was inevitable, the Packers (10-5-3) struggled on offense down the stretch.

West Fargo played Grand Forks Central to a 1-1 tie, and lost to Eastern Dakota Conference regular-season champion Shanley 2-1 to set up a must-win game against South.

Millar said the team was pressing to make things happen, and started questioning why their hard work wasn’t paying off with goals.

“The positive is that we are a pretty resilient bunch,” Millar said. “(Monday) night we had one of the best practices we’ve had in about three weeks. We finally opened our mouths and started talking again. A soccer match should be something where your ears start to hurt because you are talking so much.”

At the top of their game, the Packers have plenty of offensive firepower. Senior Austin Dillard leads the team with 14 goals. Senior midfielder Jade Johnson has been a steady playmaker all season long, collecting eight goals and eight assists.

But Millar said the defense and goalkeeper Braden Schmid lead the way for West Fargo.

The Packers played to a 0-0 draw with Bismarck during the regular season. The Demons earned the West Region’s No. 2 seed despite winning the WDA regular season title with a loss in the conference tournament title game.

“We don’t have to do anything special,” Millar said. “We just need to play the way we know how and we’ll be fine.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Heath Hotzler at (701) 241-5562.

Hotzler’s blogs can be found at www.areavoices.com