After a 6-2 drubbing by WMC last season, the Trojans were eager to right the score in the 2018 matchup. With both schools having graduated their leading scorers from a year ago, it was anyone’s game.
Weather eventually ended the contest as temperatures dropped and precipitation began, leaving the Warriors in the lead 1-0 with 15 minutes left to play.
“It was an unfortunate way to end a good game,” said WMC head coach David Hulings. “They were gaining some momentum, and we were making foolish decisions over the last 10 minutes.”
Owen Alfree made the difference early for WMC, finishing a clean assist by Hayden Hubers with 21 minutes left in the first half. The goal came as a consequence of tremendous possession and patience for the Warriors, who were firing on all cylinders in their first game this season at full strength.
“I thought both teams played really well,” Hulings said. “For us, it was our first half. I thought we were more physical in that half. We possessed it and made smart decisions when we were on the ball. This is the first time we had had everybody healthy. We have had three of our guys out, so it was nice to see all together with everyone back and having guys to sub.”
Despite the extra support, the Warrior attack waned in the second half as the Trojans dialed in their kick-and-run game and began to put together possessions.
“They were throwing the ball forward a lot,” Hulings said of Fruitport. “With the wind at their tail, it didn’t help them any. When they had a chance to throw it forward into the wind, they had a better chance with some of their attacks. Eventually, they put it on the grass and played down there and got some things going.”
With an ominous storm system approaching from the West, Fruitport’s attack and the Warriors’ possession grew more and more frantic throughout the second half. A few golden chances created off Fruitport steals and clears started to put the pressure on WMC’s back line, which held up wonderfully.
“Our back line was exceptional tonight,” Hulings said. “Every time they had a chance, Brant (Zeerip) and Brando (Fles) just shut them down.”
Just as the Trojans were feeling a breakthrough, lightning lit up the rapidly darkening sky. An initial 30-minute delay was announced before the coaches agreed to call the contest based on the apparent severity of the storm.
“It ended up being advantageous for us,” Hulings said. “But it’s a shame to end that way. In the last 10 minutes, we fell off a bit. I don’t know what happened. I think with the wind picking up, everyone was getting a little distracted. Overall, (its was) a good game.”
Fruitport first-year head coach Dan Hazekamp was pleased with his team’s performance in the second half and shared Hulings’ wish to have played the full contest.
“I thought we did a nice job of battling back and putting ourselves in a position to be in the game,” he said. “We came out slow and WMC asserted their style of play. WMC is a very good team and Coach Hulings does a great job putting his players in position to be successful. Once we settled in, I thought the game started to even out.
“We would have loved to play a full 80 minutes, but weather happens and we had our opportunities. We are always hoping to win, but these tough non-conference games will make us better when we get into conference play. I feel we took another step forward today."
"I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Connor Hines and how well he played in net for us tonight. His positioning and decisiveness kept us in the game early on and allowed us to fight through some bumps. I thought he played phenomenally. I also thought Eli Covert gave us a great shot of energy in the second half. I thought our boys fed off his play and allowed us to start pressuring WMC until the lightning rolled in.”
The Warriors improve to 3-0-2 on the year and will return to the pitch on Sept. 6 to open up their Lakes Eight Conference season, as they host Manistee. The Trojans fall to 1-2-1 on the year and will face Rockford on Thursday.
Junior varsity: Fruitport defeated WMC, 2-1.