The club with the most collective stamina and endurance often finds a way to make the winning plays in crunch time.
The Fruitport boys soccer team came into Tuesday night’s non-conference battle against Grand Rapids Covenant Christian with a numbers advantage on the roster sheet with 19 players active for the Trojans, compared to just 14 for the visiting Chargers.
That discrepancy helped the Trojans wear down Covenant Christian, scoring three second-half goals on their way to a 5-2 win at Fruitport High School.
“We’ve been winning games when we work hard, and that’s something we’ve been working on, and it showed itself tonight,” said Fruitport head coach Greg Kobylak. “We played 19 players, and they only had three subs. Part of our gameplan was to attack that and make sure that we played everyone in the game and make them run a little more.
“I think they got tired as the game went on and that opened up some space for us to operate with and that made our passing more successful.”
With the score knotted at one, senior forward Zack Shane maneuvered around the Covenant Christian defense and placed the ball just out of reach of the keeper to give Fruitport a 2-1 lead with 20 seconds left in the first half.
That goal carried enough momentum into the second half to help the Trojans overpower the Chargers behind the play of Shane and fellow senior forward Logan Fielding.
Fielding would add two second-half goals, while sophomore defenseman Kaleb Krueger blasted home his own score to help the Trojans pull away for the win.
“I think Logan is a big key to our team’s success,” added Kobylak. “Other teams are going to man-mark our other striker (Zack Shane) and that opens up the game for other people to attack and make an impact for the team, and Logan has done that.
“He’s getting healthier and more confident in himself, and I think this is a key moment for him. I really think he’s going to explode from here and have a really successful second half of the season for us.”
Fielding admitted after the game that he wasn’t focused on scoring goals, but wanted to make sure he finished when the opportunity arose.
“I knew they were marking up on Zack (Shane) a lot, but I was still trying to distribute the ball to him when I could and set up my other teammates with good passes on the attack,” he said. “I really just wanted to finish on my own chances when they came up and take good shots when they were there and hopefully they went in.
“I think I got lucky on my goals tonight, because that goalie is pretty good. I knew he could extend his body, so I knew if I tried to go corner there was a good chance that he would be able to reach it. So, I tried to get him out of position and it worked.”
The dynamic duo of Shane and Fielding is a force that was forged at an early age.
“We’ve been playing together since we were little kids, so it’s awesome that we’re able to continue playing together at the high school level, too,” he said of his senior teammate. “We have a few classes together, and we hang out off the field, too. I think that definitely helps when I know what he is going to do, and he knows what I’m going to do, and we just have a good chemistry when we are out there.”
While the attack helped Fruitport pull away, it was the Trojans’ defensive unit that locked down the Chargers and forced the visitors to play on their own side of the field for the majority of the second half.
“Luke Hronek and Logan Teitsma played a lot of minutes for us in the outside defense, which is a really important position for us,” Kobylak added. “Austin Golden, and Brendan Kemme have also been putting together big games for us lately, and continue to do good work in the backend of the field.”
The Trojans hosts Muskegon on Thursday, followed by a home match against Kenowa Hills on Saturday, before opening up an important four-game stretch in their schedule.
“The next two weeks of games will determine who wins the conference,” said Kobylak. “We’ve got Jenison, Shores, Union and Puffer. We’re hoping tonight’s win can help us build some positive momentum as we head into those matchups.”