By Justin Haggerty
But the way things turned out, they had to try to do that while playing shorthanded for almost an entire half, due to the red card ejection of a player.
The Sailors took advantage of the situation by scoring three unanswered goals and leaving Reeths-Puffer’s field with an important 3-1 victory.
The Rockets dropped to 8-7 overall, but more importantly fell to 5-2 in the conference, which probably leaves them tied for first place with Grand Rapids Union.
Mona Shores, which lost to Reeths-Puffer earlier in the season, improved to 9-3-3 overall and 4-2-1 in the conference, a half game out of first place.
“I’m disappointed for our seniors because our rivalry with Mona Shores is so significant and we look forward to the games every year,” said Reeths-Puffer Coach Keith Knapp. “For this to be their last time playing those guys on this field, it’s kind of a tough way to go out.”
The game was going well for the Rockets before the pivotal penalty.
The first half was scoreless, but Reeths-Puffer controlled the scoring chances while the Sailors failed to get a shot on goal.
Reeths-Puffer got on the board first, 5:27 into the second half, when senior Shin Okamoto took a pass from fellow senior Collin McFalls and converted from far out to give the Rockets a 1-0 edge.
But at the 7:01 mark, the Reeths-Puffer player was issued a red card for a hard tackle. A red card means the player is ejected, and his team is not allowed to replace him on the field.
That meant the Rockets had to play the final 32:59 with just 10 players on the field.
The Sailors took immediate advantage.
On the ensuing free kick, Mona Shores senior Tanner Parrett launched a high shot toward the R-P net. The ball hit the crossbar, and landed behind the goalkeeper just across the goal line to tie the game at 1-1.
“I saw it bend over, drop down and hit the bar,” Parrett said. “I didn’t think it went in, then I saw it hit the top of the net, I hit my spot.”
“It was a nice goal, got the boys sparked up,” said Mona Shores Coach Mike Apostle.
Knapp said the penalty and the free quick happened very quickly, leaving his team unable to respond.
“The goal was instant on the restart, we never even had a chance to make adjustments,” he said. “It was just that quick.
“By then the momentum had shifted so significantly, there was no way we could get that back.”
Five minutes after Parrett scored his fifth goal of the year, fellow captain Kevin Quigg connected to give the Sailors a lead they would not relinquish.
Less than three minutes after the Quigg goal, senior Eric Conley dribbled in all alone on the left wing and blasted a shot from just outside the box to give the Sailors their final margin of victory.
“Puffer has always been a rival of ours,” Mona Shores goalkeeper Tyler LeMense said. “Especially being our senior year, we really wanted to come out and beat them.
“To come out here and do it in that kind of fashion, it was amazing.”