By Steve Gunn
Local Sports Journal

FRUITPORT – Orchard View goaltender Diego Valdes nearly ruined Fruitport’s perfect league record Tuesday night, and he’s not even a real goaltender.

But it takes more than a hot hand in goal to shut down the Trojan’s potent offensive attack, particularly through 80 minutes of regulation and two overtime periods.

Fruitport sophomore Noah Hendricks finally scored for Fruitport with less than 10 minutes remaining in the second half Tuesday, forcing the game into overtime.

Senior Zach Gilson did the rest, scoring a goal in each overtime period to help Fruitport seal an exciting 3-1 victory over Orchard View in Lakes 8 Conference soccer action.

Fruitport improved to 8-2-3 overall and 5-0 in conference play. The Trojans will meet second-place Spring Lake Thursday in a crucial league showdown.

Fruitport very nearly headed to Spring Lake with a blemish on its record. The Trojans trailed the Cardinals for most of the second half Tuesday despite controlling the flow of the game.

Orchard View’s Cameron Stafford scored the only goal of the first half with 7:40 remaining, with an assist from Brody Neer.

Then Valdes went to work after halftime, making the one-goal lead stand up for more than 30 minutes with a series of spectacular saves under heavy pressure.

Fruitport dominated offensively, outshooting the Cardinals 34-7. But shots don’t count on the scoreboard, and Valdes nearly escaped with a shutout.

The most impressive part is that Valdes is a midfielder who was filling in for the Cardinal’s regular goaltender. He made an impressive varsity debut between the pipes with 22 saves.

“He was amazing,” said Fruitport coach Greg Kobylak of Valdes. “He made some of the best saves we’ve seen all season. Orchard View is very organized on defense. They kept us from scoring longer than any team has all season.”

Kobylak said he was a little nervous as the clock wound down and his team was still scoreless.

“I really believed that our guys would find a way to score, but I admit after the 10 minute mark passed I started to wonder if maybe tonight was not our night,” he said.

Hendricks finally broke through for Fruitport with 8:47 left in regulation, with an assist from Andrew Frost.

Gilson, one of the top offensive players in the area, helped seal the victory for the Trojans with his 20th goal in the first overtime period and his 21st in the second.

Nick Carrier assisted on the first overtime goal while Bryant Rebone did the same on the second.

Gilson admitted that he was impressed with Valdes’ performance in goal, but said he never doubted that his team would take control.

“We knew we just had to keep working hard and keep playing,” Gilson said. “We were dominating. They had a hard time getting it out of their end of the field. We stayed calm. We knew we could come back.”

Orchard View dropped to 6-3 overall and 2-3 in the conference.

Cardinals coach Kyle Skodack said one difference was depth. Fruitport had fresh players to run in and out of the game, while Orchard View was handicapped by several key injuries.