By Andrew Johnson
The two teams split a pair of games this year and shared the Lakes 8 Conference title. They took turns winning the league championship in the three prior seasons.
But when it comes to the postseason tournament, Spring Lake has been dominant.
That trend continued Friday when the Lakers downed Fruitport 2-1 in overtime to win the Division 2 district championship at Allendale High School.
It was the fourth straight year that Spring Lake has ended Fruitport’s season in districts, with three of those wins coming in the district finals.
Spring Lake, now 18-3-1, advances to the first round of regionals Tuesday in Cedar Springs. Fruitport finished the season 18-3-1.
Spring Lake’s Alec Palmer was the hero on Friday.
Just under two minutes into the first overtime, he picked up a loose ball inside the goal box and found the back of the net, giving the Lakers a 2-1 lead they’d hang onto until the final whistle.
Palmer said knowing how big the game was helped make the winning goal feel even better.
“It felt great to get that goal, and I know this is a really huge game for us after splitting with them this year,” he said.
Laker coach Jeremy Thelen said his team has the big game experience necessary to pull out important victories.
“This team battles, they are battle tested, we’ve played in districts, regionals, and the state finals in 2013,” he said.
Fruitport struck first, getting a goal from Zack Shane, with an assist from Cameron Brandow, about six minutes into the first half. That lead held up until halftime.
Spring Lake tied the score halfway through the second half when Ryan Zietlow scored on a corner kick from Palmer.
The Lakers thought they had broken the tied about two minutes later when Keegan George apparently scored. But the play was ruled offsides and the goal was waved off.
The Lakers continued to play aggressively and had multiple shots on goal, but once again were unable to score as the clock struck zero in regulation with a 1-1 tie.
Palmer’s goal gave Spring Lake the edge in the first overtime, but Fruitport still had a chance, because high school rules require two full 10 minute overtimes, with no sudden death endings.
Fruitport standout Noah Hendricks had the best chance to tie the game about two minutes into the second overtime.
Hendricks streaked down the field with the ball and worked his way into the box, then appeared to be shoved down by a Spring Lake player, but no penalty was called.
After the game Fruitport Coach Greg Kobylak said he was proud of his team and the great game they played, but was disappointed in the no-call.
“It’s disappointing but we had a fun, great season that we wanted to continue as long as possible,” he said. “It’s a shame that maybe a foul was missed but it happens every game, all the time.”
The Lakers outshot the Trojans 18-3.