Soccer: Elks nudge Centennial 1-0 on Griffin overtime goal

Brandon Griffin tallied the lone goal in overtime as Elk River-Zimmerman pulled out yet another close conference game, 1-0 over Centennial on Thursday evening in Circle Pines.

“We were very happy with our sixth shutout of the season and how we cover for each other defensively,” said coach Aaron Lindquist. “Also happy with a run of play goal — we score a lot of free kicks and corners.”

Griffin, at the top of the 18-yard box, took a pass from Storm Heyer, slipped around a defender and calmly drove the ball past the goalie during the first five-minute overtime.

“Storm, who had been surrounded by defenders all game, received the ball in the right corner of the field and played a great pass to Brandon,” said the coach. “Brandon made a great back-heal move.”

The Elks are 6-1-1 in the NWSC, with six games either a tie or decided by one goal. Blaine leads at 6-0-1, followed by the Elks, Anoka 6-2, Maple Grove 5-2-1 and Centennial 4-3-1.

The Elks (9-1-2 overall) are one of four NWSC teams in the QRF top ten. Blaine is first, Anoka third, the Elks eighth and Maple Grove ninth.

Lindquist noted that Centennial is regarded as one of the state’s best defensive teams.

In the first half, Jordan Griffin hit the crossbar once and the Elks had few other good looks. The Elks limited the Cougars to long-range shots that were off target.

Centennial changed its style of play in the second half and the Elks struggled with it but defended well. They had a couple chances to score but couldn’t finish.

Elk senior Joey Benz was “asked to play all over the field,” said Lindquist, and played well. Trevor Reibel came back from a concussion that sidelined him three games and played all 90 minutes. Andy Vail and Mitch Weege were solid off the bench. Goalie Cody Christ made some difficult catches on corners and crosses.

The Elks have their final two conference games next week, both at home, against Champlin Park on Tuesday and Maple Grove on Thursday. First, there’s a doubleheader against Rogers at home Saturday, boys at 11 a.m. and girls at 1 p.m.