Kendall scored a goal just 40 seconds after Fruitport had grabbed a 1-0 lead, and the Lakers added two more second-half scores to pull away from the visiting Trojans, 3-1, on a rain-drenched field at Spring Lake Middle School.
To see photos from the game, click here.
While the Lakers rose to the challenge after Fruitport’s goal, the Trojans were unable to do the same late in the game.
“We’re a team that is still learning how to deal with adversity,” said second-year coach Greg Kobylak, whose team slips to 9-3-2 and 3-2 in the Lakes Eight Conference following its second consecutive league loss.
The Trojans were on their heels against a speedy Lakers’ offense that utilizes precision passing and brings waves of players into the attack.
Still, Spring Lake wasn’t able to get a ball past Fruitport’s outstanding goalie, Loghan Stong, even when the Trojans were whistled for a foul inside their penalty box with just 12 seconds remaining in the half.
Spring Lake’s Adam Clauss took the ensuing penalty kick, which Stong saved, keeping the game scoreless.
Less than four minutes into the second half, Fruitport broke the tie as a ball was played in to junior Ryan Craker, who ran on and slid a shot past a diving Lakers’ goalie Harrison Kriger.
It took Spring Lake less than a minute to answer as Kendall fired in a direct kick from 25 yards out that fooled Stong, thanks to a Laker player flashing in front of the Trojans’ goalie just before the ball arrived.
“Obviously, bouncing back within seconds of their goal with one of our own was huge,” said Lakers’ coach Jeremy Thelen, whose team is now 11-1 and 5-0 in Lakes Eight Conference games. “That breaks their momentum and gives us some momentum back that we lost after missing that penalty kick.”
Spring Lake finally grabbed the lead with 26:17 remaining in the game when the Lakers’ A.J. Broughton sent a cross from the right side that found teammate Riley Kameraad open at the far post. He drilled a volley into the top of the net to put his team on top.
With 13:30 to play, the Lakers added and insurance goal when Tanner Berg made a nice play to evade a defender, then fired a point-blank shot into the Trojans’ goal. Berg then ran out toward the Lakers’ fans and slid on his knees on the wet grass, a move that earned him a yellow card for excessive celebration.
Spring Lake entered the game ranked No. 4 in the latest Division 2 state rankings, but Kendall said rankings mean nothing, especially when playing Fruitport.
“That’s the great thing about Spring Lake and Fruitport,” Kendall said. “It doesn’t matter who’s supposed to win on paper. It’s ground zero once you hit the game.
“We trusted each other tonight, and those goals we scored at the end, those were to show everybody we’ve been working hard. I’m sure we’ll see Fruitport again. We’re looking forward to it, and when we do, it’ll be ground zero again.”
Kriger didn’t have a lot of action in front of him, thanks primarily to a strong effort by the Lakers’ defense, including Michael Zietlow and Erik Lukkari on the outside, Nic Ellingboe at sweeper and Ben Keller at stopper.
“We really have a great defense in front of me, and they all worked really hard,” Kriger said. “We gave up that one breakaway, but we knew we’d been dominating the game and that we’d get one back.”
Fruitport received a fantastic game from Stong, while defenders Ryan Mason, Colin Sparks, Taylor McLaughlin, Zach Boroff and Cody Pekel played a solid game despite being put under constant pressure from the Lakers’ offense.
Both the Lakers and the Trojans have one more regular-season league game remaining before staring the conference tournament. With Tuesday’s win, the Lakers are assured of the top seed in the Lakes Eight tourney.
Junior Varsity: The Lakers and the Trojans played to a tie on Tuesday.