Local Sports Journal

An early-season loss to the Muskegon Catholic Central Crusaders had been eating away at the North Muskegon Norseman all season long.

But on Saturday, the Norsemen got their wish in a rematch with a Division 4 district soccer title on the line.

Connor Gannon delivered a goal with eight minutes left in the second overtime and lifted North Muskegon to a 2-1 victory over the Crusaders in a game played at Western Michigan Christian’s Warrior Field.

The victory means North Muskegon advances to next week’s regional tournament in Suttons Bay. The Norse will face Leland, a 9-1 winner over Bellaire in a district title game on Friday night. That regional semifinal is 5 p.m Tuesday.

“My kids played ironman soccer just like they have all season long,” NM coach Jeremy Tjapkes said. “Moreso today.”

Two more injuries left Tjapkes with one sub on his bench, but they were able to hang on.

Muskegon Catholic got on the board seven minutes into the game on a goal by Frank Gasior. The ball was sent into the mix from the corner and, according to Tjapkes, his guys stood and watched while Gasior popped the ball into the net.

The Norsemen evened the score with 15 minutes left in regulation on a goal by Will Byl.

“I was ready to pull my goalie to put him out on the field,” Tjapkes said. “My backup was dressed, warmed up and ready to go and we scored.”

“Will Byl has been huge for us in this district,” said Tjapkes, who also said Byl was talked into playing this season by his friend, Zach Rummery. Byl had four assists against Ravenna, both goals against Fruitport Calvary on Thursday night and the tying goal on Saturday.

The goal came after a North Muskegon corner kick.

“Will’s timing and his positioning is impeccable,” Tjapkes said. “He just tapped it home.”

Both teams had chances in the latter stages of regulation, but neither team could produce a game-winning goal.

“We’re just a second half team right now,” Tjapkes said. “It’s almost like our kids have to analyze what we are doing wrong then go out in the second half and take care of it.”

The winning goal came off a free kick by Spencer Wallis that landed in front of the MCC net.

“I told Connor that no matter what, to go to the back post … anticipate that everyone is going to miss it,” Tjapkes said. “Thank God, he listened to me.”

Gannon made the run, the ball flicked off the head of Byl in the direction of Gannon. The sophomore outside midfielder headed the ball down to his foot and he deposited it into the corner of the net.

From there, North Muskegon had to withstand heavy pressure from MCC.

“We put an extra guy back on defense and they brought everything,” Tjapkes said. “We really had to weather the storm the rest of the way.