The visitors scored early into Thursday’s Division 2 district semifinal match at Fruitport High School, and were content to play keep away from the talented Trojans’ attack the rest of the game.
However, it’s hard to keep standout performers pinned down for an entire game, and Fruitport senior star forward Zack Shane proved that.
With less than 10 minutes to play in regulation and his team down by one goal, Shane sprinted through the Coopersville defense, threw himself toward the ball and drew a penalty kick inside the box.
Some players might have let the pressure of the situation get to them, but Shane calmly ripped a shot past the keeper and knotted the game up at 1-1.
The Trojans carried that momentum into overtime, but neither team was able to score the deciding goal to clinch the match.
The game and both teams’ seasons would hang in the balance of a penalty-kick shootout.
Each team would score on their first four kicks of the extra session, but in the fifth and deciding round, Coopersville converted, while the Trojans’ attempt fell short.
The Broncos ran onto the field in celebration, while the entire Fruitport squad consoled junior Cam Schultz.
Coopersville advances to play Reeths-Puffer on Saturday at 1 p.m. for the Division 2 district championship.
“The team fought hard tonight, but it just wasn’t our day,” said Fruitport head coach Greg Kobylak. “Coopersville is a really good team and there was a lack of quality goals being scored today. They had a wonderful gameplan set up, too.
“Every time they lost the ball, they followed it, like a professional team would do, and we hadn’t seen that season.”
Kobylak was proud of how his team fought back in the final minutes of regulation and didn’t accept defeat.
“We outworked them on in those final 10 minutes,” he said. “That’s when we are at our best — when we outwork teams. It’s just unfortunate when your season is decided in a shootout like that. It sucks for the kids, and it’s a tough way to go out.”
The Trojans graduate six seniors this season — none more impressive than senior forward Zack Shane, who set the school record for goals in a season and career while playing for the Trojans.
“It’s always hard to say goodbye to the seniors, and this group has meant a lot to me and a lot to this program. I love those guys, and we’ll miss all the fun we’ve had,” Kobylak added. “Zack probably had the most outstanding career in the history of our program. He’s a really great player, he’s scored 102 goals over the course of his career, and I’m sure he’ll be on to bigger and better things in his future.
“Logan Fielding wasn’t supposed to play today, but we were able to get him in during the second half, and he played really hard through an injury. I feel bad for Eli Ramirez. He was sick today and he missed the last game. He’s our attacking center midfielder, so we were playing without one of our best players.
“Brendan Kemme played really well on defense and Ryan Bytwerk scored a wonderful penalty kick at the end. Jeremiah Bosse came out as a senior and played on the varsity team and was a great addition to the team. All these guys gave a lot to this program, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”