By Dave Hart
SPRING LAKE – It’s not how you start a game, it’s how you finish.
The Rockets were outplayed for most of their Division 2 district soccer matchup against powerful Spring Lake, but managed to play to a tie through regulation and two overtime periods.
Then they came to life in the overtime shootout, outscoring the Lakers by three goals.
The result was a stunning 2-1 upset victory for the Rockets over Spring Lake, who came into the contest ranked second in the state.
The Rockets, now 10-8-2 on the season, will face Fruitport on Wednesday night at Coopersville High School in the Division 2 district semifinals.
The Lakers, who clinched the O-K Blue Conference title last week, abruptly ended their season with a 15-2-2 overall record.
“We have been playing really good soccer over the last couple weeks,” said Reeths-Puffer Coach Keith Knapp, whose team only had one shot on goal in regulation and overtime. “So we had the confidence that we could play at this level.
“I won’t kid you, I feel like in a lot of aspects Spring Lake outplayed us, but our defense stood tall and played a heck of a game.”
Spring Lake controlled the contest from the opening kick, outshooting the Rockets 3-0 during the first half, with six corner kick chances compared to none for Reeths-Puffer.
But the game was scoreless at halftime, which was good news for the Rockets.
The Lakers finally broke the deadlock seven minutes into the second half on a goal by senior Ryan Zietlow. He scored on a shot from 20 yards out that entered the net at the low-right side. Baruch Kamps assisted on the tally.
Spring Lake continued to dominate, but sailed multiple shots over the net. The Lakers nearly took a 2-0 lead, but Reeths-Puffer goalkeeper Jake Lofgren robbed Zietlow in front of the net with about 20 minutes left in the game.
Reeths-Puffer responded 30 seconds later with a game-tying goal from senior Dylan Art on a Laker defensive lapse in front of the net.
Art’s shot was the only Reeths-Puffer shot on goal during regulation and overtime.
Neither team was able to score in the two 10-minute overtime periods. Spring Lake had a 1-0 advantage in shots.
That led to the decisive shootout session, with players from each team going one-on-one from close range with the opposing goalkeeper.
The Rockets finally dominated for the first time in the game, scoring on all four of their shots. Spring Lake only scored on one of its three shots.
Drake Fox, Brendan Sherwood, Tyler DeLong and Logan DuShane found the net during the shootout for Reeths-Puffer. Charlie Parker scored Spring Lake’s goal.
“We had our chances down by the attacking end and we just didn’t put goals in,” said Spring Lake Coach Jeremy Thelen. “We missed opportunities to put the ball in the net and that stinks for a team that has been attack-minded all year.”
The Lakers outshot Reeths-Puffer by an 8-1 margin. Lofgren stopped seven shots for the Rockets.