By: Brendan Samuels

LUDINGTON – Wednesday marked the first boys’ soccer action for Ludington and Reeths-Puffer, but it was the Rockets who looked in midseason form in an 8-0 win at Oriole Field.

From the get-go, the Orioles struggled to handle the speed and physicality of Reeths-Puffer. As always, senior Liam Smith garnered much of the attention, often drawing the entirety of Ludington’s back line to his side of the field after going on a run up the sideline.

It didn’t matter what was tossed at Smith as he continued his march toward Rockets’ history. Entering the day, Smith had 61 career goals which was just 15 short of the school record of 76. Four more goals in Wednesday’s win have him nearly a third of the way to that mark after just one game.

Smith’s first goal came on a penalty kick just six minutes into the first half. Ethan Pennington also got in on the action four minutes later, taking an accurate through pass from Ian Wright and turning it into goals.

Photo/Brendan Samuels

The Orioles did have a few scoring opportunities early, making Reeths-Puffer senior goalkeeper Gage Hopkins make some fantastic saves to keep Ludington off the board.

“I saw guys step up today. Gage did a great job in goal and cutting off angles,” Reeths-Puffer head coach Kody Harrell said. “I think the biggest thing for me was seeing us have solid communication. We did a great job at being organized and focusing on those little details that people don’t often notice.”

With eight minutes left in the first half, Smith notched his second on an assist from junior forward Nick Clemens. Wright closed out the first 40 minutes with a screaming strike that zipped past Ludington’s Gabe Gomez in net.

On top 4-0, the Rockets put their foot on the gas in the first 20 minutes of the second half. Clemens started it off with a goal exactly 60 seconds into the period. Smith scored back-to-back to put the mercy rule victory within reach for Reeths-Puffer.

Photo/Brendan Samuels

A final penalty kick goal ended the night with 21:44 still remaining in the game. Smith dominated the night and deserves the nod for his team’s most valuable player. Teammates around him were just as impressive, however, which is something that bodes well for the Rockets.

“Liam does a very good job at not being a know it all, but sharing key points with guys like Nick Clemens that can do some of the same stuff,” Harrell said. “He empowers players and he smiles just as big when other players score as he does when he scores.”

After an 11-9-2 finish last year, the Rockets have their sights set on a big year. A win over the reigning West Michigan Conference champs should do nothing but raise their confidence level moving forward.

Photos by LSJ photographer Brendan Samuels