Male Area Athlete of Week: Flyer’s “Ironman” notches 3 assists and does the little things in 2 wins
Haakon Bjorge’s contributions to Little Falls soccer don’t always show in the stat sheet.
He did show up in the stat sheet last week with three assists in a 3-1 win over Melrose earning him Dispatch Male Area Athlete of the Week.
“I was working the middle and the forwards were making the right runs and I just knew where to give them the ball,” Bjorge said. “I give a lot of credit to them.”
Two of those three assists were to former area athlete of the week Riley Perry who notched two goals.
“My coach usually puts me and Riley out on the right,” Bjorge said. “I feel like we have a strong connection. We both know the type of runs both of us will be making. I definitely enjoy playing on that side with him. We have played with each other since we were 10-years-old. I think it’s a lot of experience and knowing where each other will be.”
Bjorge plays as a midfielder for the Flyers and head coach Christopher Backhaus says he makes valuable runs to the ball that help the team win.
A big adjustment Backhaus made in the Melrose game was at halftime getting more combination plays up the middle of the field. Backhaus felt his team was taking their shots too far from the net.
“They were not dangerous attempts,” Backhaus said. “We made some adjustments and bumped Haakon up to play with Riley quite a bit for some combination and he fed off of it and was able to make overlapping runs off of that.”
According to Backhaus, both Bjorge and Perry are strong ball handlers with speed, so it’s no accident that they connected twice in the Melrose game.
Backhaus gave Bjorge the nickname “Ironman” because he never tires and gives all-out effort the whole game.
“Haakon’s contributions to the team often comes from the unrewarded effort on the defensive end,” Backhaus said. “He will track all the way back from endline to endline and be in position to be able to receive a ball and distribute it to a striker. I did name him ‘Ironman’ because he does not tire and will make endline runs all night long.”
Bjorge takes the nickname with great honor.
“I’m very honored to be called that,” he said. “I think running is something that I can do very well. It mainly comes from a lot of work done in the offseason.”
Bjorge started playing soccer when he was 5-years-old and it is a sport his mom played as well as his siblings.
“Once she introduced the sport to me and my siblings we all just kind of found a passion for it,” he said. “I love to watch it and play it.”
Bjorge loves practice and playing for his teammates. Backhaus noted he is one of the most selfless players on the team.
“That is the backbone of our team,” Backhaus said. “If you get to him and his character he is a selfless guy. He will more than likely pass the ball before he will shoot the ball.”
Bjorge acknowledged he is the type of player that looks to pass more so than shoot.
“If I see someone who has a better opportunity — I like to distribute the ball,” he said. “If there is an open chance for me to shoot I will take it. But I definitely like to include my teammates and look for open teammates.”
One of Bjorge’s favorite memories this season was senior night against Minnewaska in a 4-1 win.
“We had a lot of fans and it was an energizing and exciting game,” he said.
Although Bjorge didn’t record any stats in the win over Minnewaska. Backhaus called it one of his best games because he did all the little things.
“He was everywhere on the field against Minnewaska,” Backhaus said. “His contributions against Minnewaska weren’t necessarily on the scoresheet, but in his presence on the field.”
Bjorge isn’t a captain, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a leader. Backhaus often shows how Bjorge works and runs to the younger players as an example of how to play.
“He sets the bar for what I tell our bench players that we need to strive to achieve on the field of play,” Backhaus said. “Often, I’ll have our younger guys watch him to learn what they can improve.”
It means a lot to Bjorge that he has the trust of his coach.
“I’m honored that he thinks that way of me,” he said. “I try to lead as much as I can on and off the field. I’m really thankful for it.”
Bjorge plans to enlist in the military in either the Army or the Marines.
“Ever since I was young, I was interested in joining the military,” he said. “A lot of what goes on there interests me. I think that would be a smart choice for me.”
With a section tournament on the horizon, Bjorge wants to play it one game at a time as the season finishes.
“I think taking it one game at a time and not underestimating the other team is a good strategy,” he said.
Other notable performances:
Soccer: Riley Perry, Little Falls, scored two goals and an assist in a 4-1 win over Minnewaska and scored two goals against Melrose in 3-1 win.
Cross-Country: Emmet Anderson, Staples-Motley, won the Park Rapids meet in 15:52, and the Staples-Motley in 16:00.2.
Ethan Johnson, Pequot Lakes, won the Menahga meet in 17:22.24.
CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/the_rad34.
School: Little Falls
Highlights: Three assists against Melrose in a 3-1 win.