By Steve Gunn
One graduates and another steps up.
This year its Zack Shane’s turn, and by the time he’s finished, he may end up very near the top of the school’s all-time scoring list.
Shane, a junior, has been a member of the Fruitport varsity since his freshman season. He started showing his scoring prowess as a freshman and sophomore, totaling 27 goals over his first two seasons.
He was playing behind standout Noah Hendricks, who is the program’s all-time leading scorer. But Hendricks graduated last spring, and Shane stepped into the role as the big Trojan point producer this fall.
Heading into this week’s Division 2 district tournament, Shane leads his team with 33 goals. That’s more than half of the team’s total of 60 goals. That’s how important he is to the Fruitport attack.
He has scored in 13 games, and has at least three goals in seven different games.
“Zack is one of the best players in the area,” said veteran Fruitport soccer Coach Greg Kobylak. “It would be hard to find a single player more important to his team. He has 75 percent direct involvement in the team’s goals.”
Shane is moving up Fruitport’s career scoring list.
He’s currently fifth behind Hendricks (117 combined goals and assists), Jake Laufersky, Dan Hazekamp and Andrew McClain. Shane has 57 career goals and 29 assists for a combined 86.
“For those who follow Fruitport High School soccer, those star forwards make an impressive list, and Zack is already part of that list,” Kobylak said. “He still has his senior year to continue moving up the ranks.
“What makes Zack so good? He is 100 percent committed to developing his skills. He never takes time off, and he trains at high levels in and out of the season. Zack also has the ideal physical attributes – tall, strong and fast with good endurance.
“I expect to see Zack playing NCAA Division 1 soccer in the future.”
Shane said he didn’t like soccer when he first started playing, and was a “pretty average” player until the seventh grade, when he played for the West Michigan Storm travel team. He said his coach with the Storm, Josh Watson, recognized his potential and “kept pushing me and pushing me to get better.”
Shane said it was great to play varsity as a freshman and sophomore with a talented scorer like Hendricks, but he didn’t assume he would inherit that role this season.
“I know with guys like Gilson and Hendricks, there was sort of an expectation of scoring a lot of goals, and I’m really glad I could do it this year,” said Shane, 16, who also has 12 assists this season. “I knew going in that I had a good team around me, and it turned out great.
“I just really wanted to help the team get as many wins as we could.”
Shane said one secret to his offensive success is his quick strike ability. When he gets the ball, he wants to score as quickly as possible.
“Wherever I am on the field, I love to take my first touch to the goal, then finish when I can,” said Shane, who holds the school record for the quickest goal in a game – seven seconds.
The Trojans just wrapped up a regular season that brought new challenges.
After years of being a dominant team in the Lakes 8 Conference – and sharing the championship with Spring Lake last season – they joined the highly competitive O-K Black Conference this season.
The tougher schedule is reflected in their record. Fruitport finished the season 10-8-1 overall and a middle-of-the-pack 6-5-1 in the O-K Black.
“The O-K Black is more challenging than the Lakes 8,” Kobylak said. “We went from the biggest school to the smallest school. (The Black) is not tremendously more talented, but deeper. Instead of having four or five tough games in the conference season, we went to eight or nine tough, competitive games.
“We hope that competition has shaped us in a positive way to be ready for the district tournament.”
Fruitport will open Division 2 district play on Monday against Sparta. The winner of that will advance to Wednesday’s semifinals against the winner of the Spring Lake-Reeths-Puffer game.
“Spring Lake is state-ranked and clearly the favorite, but I think four teams, including Fruitport, are talented enough to challenge them,” Kobylak said. “It took us a while to get the pieces in the right spots, but it’s fun to be healthy and playing the best soccer of the year at the end.”
Shane said he and his teammates would love to have another shot at Spring Lake, their old archrival in the Lakes 8 Conference. The Trojans lost to the Lakers in non-conference action earlier this season, but Shane thinks the contest would be a lot closer if they meet again.
But in a very tough Division 2 district, it would be foolish to look ahead, according to Shane.
“Oh for sure,” Shane said, when asked if he liked the idea of playing the Lakers again. “It’s an old rivalry. But we need to focus on our first game. In the beginning of the season we beat Sparta 3-1 and we’re hoping for another good result against them. We’re focusing on that.”