Although the game didn’t have any playoff implications, East Grand Forks Senior High and Grand Forks Central played as if it did in a 2-2 tie on Monday night at Cushman Field.
The game still had plenty of meaning for both teams.
Senior High coach Robbie Grabanski used the rivalry to motivate his players as they also look to make a postseason run.
“A lot of our guys know guys on the other team. You want to beat your friends and your friends become your enemies for 80 minutes,” Grabanski said.
East Grand Forks junior Nathen Afshari opened the scoring with an early goal off an assist from freshman Yahye Ismail. Central struck back less than a minute later with a strike from senior Colten Mitchell.
Late in the first half, Green Wave freshman Khalid Ismail went down with an apparent lower leg injury in front of the opposing goal. Ismail, however, re-entered the game in the second half, scoring EGF’s second goal to take the lead.
Ismail’s shot appeared to be the game-winner until Mitchell notched his second goal of the game on a 77th minute free kick.
Monday night was only Ismail’s second game since being called up to the varsity. Grabanski complimented his performance.
“He’s a tough kid; he’s a very strong athlete, has a good touch on the ball, and any time he gets it, there’s a chance he can score,” said Grabanski.
Central coach Lukas Schulz, meanwhile, praised his team’s ability to keep playing hard late to even the score.
“I think it’s just a group of guys who are really resilient,” said Schulz of his Knights. “We’ve been down, I swear it’s been every game this year, and I think one or two games we’ve had the lead throughout,” Schulz said. “They’re used to playing from behind and they thrive on it. It’s not a great thing to have, but once we’re there, they do a pretty good job with it.”
Central has a key EDC matchup with West Fargo Sheyenne on Tuesday night. On the outside of the playoffs looking in, a win against the Mustangs is crucial for the Knights’ postseason hopes.
“I just told them to go out there, get ready for tomorrow’s game and use this as a chance to learn,” Schulz said of Monday’s game. “We looked at a different formation and actually just switched two guys around to two different positions. It’s something we’ll probably do at some points tomorrow against Sheyenne, probably not for the whole game.”
Grabanski also used the rivalry game to motivate his players as well as the Green Wave look to make a section postseason run.
“For us, we’re still in the race,” said Grabanski. “We still have a shot at the conference title. We have a lot of seniors that really want that and the last couple years haven’t been what they wanted. We want to make a statement, and do something we’ve never done before. We have a shot to do it, so for us it’s really nailed in. Play the way we want to play, and let’s head into the sections ready to go.”