CEDAR SPRINGS – The Reeths-Puffer boys soccer team will have to settle for just one trophy this year.
The Rockets’ exciting postseason tournament run, which included a stunning district championship, drew to a close on Tuesday in the rain with a 3-0 loss to powerful Forest Hills Northern in a Division 2 regional semifinal game at Cedar Springs High School.
The Rockets, who finished with an 11-9-2 record, had an up-and-down but very interesting season that climaxed last week when they won three games and the district title without giving up a goal.
On Tuesday they were trying to win the first regional game in program history, but fell short in a hard-fought contest.
“I’m very proud,” said R-P head coach Kody Harrell. “I always knew we had it in us. They’ve paved the way for how this program will face adversity in the future. They faced so much adversity and still came away with a district title.”
The way the Rockets came together for a great postseason run means a lot to senior Liam McHugh, who played his last game for R-P on Thursday.
“You couldn’t ask for much more,” McHugh said. “We wanted to go further but we played hard and with passion. I’m proud of all the guys and how we all came together.”
The Rockets’ three-game streak of not giving up a goal ended quickly against FH Northern.
Just 94 seconds into the game, Northern junior Tyler McGlaun found the back of the net to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead.
“The goal was 100 percent avoidable,” Harrell said. “They ping it in with a pass we’ve seen a hundred times this season. It was just a communication error. It had nothing to do with skill. Those goals are super frustrating, but they happen.”
Just like during the rest of their season, when faced with adversity, the Rockets responded with a valiant effort.
They were outshot 4-1 in the first half but buckled down defensively and kept the score 1-0 at halftime.
Just before the midway point of the second half, the Rockets had a shot that would have tied the game sail just over the FH Northern net.
Due to their inability to score, the Rockets began to press up the field in search of the equalizer, which left their defense vulnerable as the second half wore on.
Forest Hills Northern took advantage and grabbed a 2-0 lead on a goal by Leo Tilly with 20:09 remaining.
The Huskies added a penalty kick goal from Grayson Traynor with 3:05 left on the clock.
Reeths-Puffer was outshot 7-4 on the night.
“I hope they saw the hard work I put in,” McHugh said about the mark he hopes he left on the program. “I hope they try to replicate it. I’m not perfect by any means, but I hope they saw the work and are able to follow in the footsteps by putting their heart into this program.”
R-P will only lose three seniors to graduation and Harrell is excited about what the team may look like next season.
“We’ll have to hit the drawing board and have 1-on-1 exit meetings this week to let guys know what we can do to improve,” the coach said. “We know we’ll have some huge holes on defense, but we’ll have a four-year returning goalie and we’re really excited about what next year could look like.”