By Steve Gunn
COPPERSVILLE – The Reeths-Puffer soccer team is demonstrating that there’s value in playing a challenging regular season schedule.
The Rockets, who posted an 11-8-2 record in a regular season schedule full of tough opponents, defeated Fruitport 1-0 in a Division 2 district semifinal game at Coopersville High School.
The victory followed Reeths-Puffer’s stunning upset of Spring Lake, the second-ranked team in the state, on Monday.
The Rockets, who fill face Ludington in Friday’s district championship game, are definitely on a roll.
“That was one of the real advantages of playing in the O-K Black Conference,” said Reeths-Puffer Coach Keith Knapp. “You can’t ever have a night off. Every night is a real challenge.
“Even out of the conference, we played state-ranked teams like Northview, Western Michigan Christian, Spring Lake and Grand Haven – in addition to being in a challenging conference.”
On Monday the Rockets beat Spring Lake by playing a defensive game against a high-scoring Laker squad.
On Wednesday they were the aggressors against Fruitport, keeping the ball in their opponents’ zone for much of the game and outshooting the Trojans 7-1.
The shot margin might have been even more one-sided, but the Rockets sailed a number of hard shots over the goal or wide of the goal. They were also stymied by several strong saves by Fruitport goalie Connor Werschem.
The strong offensive effort allowed Reeths-Puffer to sustain the one-goal lead it gained in the opening minutes. That goal came from Tyler DeLong, who scored from close range just 1:43 into the contest.
The Rockets also displayed a stifling defense whenever the Trojans mounted a threat. Fruitport didn’t get its lone shot on goal until late in the second half.
Knapp credited several defenders for very strong performances, including Matt Udell, Logan DuShane, Brayden Blackburn, Kane Shackelford and Parker Aerts.
“That’s been our biggest adjustment in the last few weeks, on our defensive side,” Knapp said. “Our defense has really become solid, and that’s really allowed (goalkeeper Jake Lofgren) to only have to make one or two saves on most nights.”
Fruitport Coach Greg Kobylak, whose team was 1-2 overall against Reeths-Puffer this year, also credited the Rocket defense.
“Their defense is one of the most organized defenses we’ve played all season,” said Kobylak, whose team finished 11-9-1 on the season. “We don’t match up well against that defensive strategy. We worked on some things to adjust to that, but we weren’t successful.”