GRAND RAPIDS – When your team doesn’t give up goals – and the Fruitport Trojans have not done that in over a month – it only takes one to get a win, even in the biggest of games.
But sometimes that’s much easier said than done.
The problem for the Trojans in Saturday’s Division 2 district championship game was that they couldn’t generate a lot of offense for most of the contest, particularly from close range.
So they did the next best thing – they found the mark from a long, long way out.
Senior defender Brady Brown launched a high shot from about 50 yards way with 13:23 left in the game, and it sailed just over the leaping Northview goalie, giving the Trojans a 1-0 lead.
About nine minutes later, a Trojan was taken down by a Northview player inside the goal box, resulting in a penalty kick.
Brown took the kick for the Trojans and blasted it into the net, giving Fruitport a thrilling 2-0 victory and the district title at Northview High School.
Fruitport, 17-2-3, has now gone unbeaten for 13 straight games, and its shutout streak has reached an incredible 12 games.
The Trojans now advance to play Marquette in the first round of regionals on Tuesday at Cedar Springs High School.
Brown said there was no desperation involved in his long shot that found the mark, despite his team’s lack of offense up to that point.
He said he just saw an opening from a distance and went for it.
“I saw their goalkeeper playing kind of high up, so I just kind of lobbed it in there,” Brown said. “I figured he would have a hard time going back for the ball, so I just thought, let’s see if we can’t chip one in – then it just went right over him,
“It was surreal. It was relieving to finally get that goal. It felt great.”
Fruitport Coach Dan Hazekamp was emotional after the game, for several different reasons.
He had high praise for Brown, who has been doing amazing things for the Fruitport varsity for the past four years, and particularly this season.
Brown is the leader of Fruitport’s ironclad defensive back line, and is second on the team in goals, despite playing on defense.
All-in-all, there was no more worthy hero on Saturday than Brown, according to his coach.
“Brady Brown cemented himself as a legend in our program today,” Hazekamp said. “He’s been here for four years and he’s done everything right. He deserved it.”
Hazekamp also wiped away a few tears when asked if he remembered the last time the Fruitport boys soccer team won a district championship.
It was way back in 2008, he said, the final year that the late Ken Erny coached the team.
Erny, Fruitport’s beloved and deeply respected former athletic director, passed away last summer.
“We never talked about it publicly, but we as coaches decided to dedicate the season to Coach Erny,” Hazekamp said. “I could feel him here today. I’m just glad we could get a win for him.”
Fruitport’s now legendary refusal to give up a goal came very much in handy in the first half of the game, because Northview controlled the ball most of the time and outshot the Trojans 4-1.
The Trojans’ only shot of the half, and their best chance to score, came with just under two minutes left when the Northview goalie dove to his right to stop a long shot from Brown that was heading into the net.
But Logan Werschem, Fruitport’s outstanding junior goalie, took care of things on the other end, neatly handling every ball that came his way.
“Having Logan not allowing rebounds today, in weather conditions like this, was so huge,” Hazekamp said. “His maturity and instincts back there allowed us to weather the storm.”
Neither team mounted much of an attack in the second half, with the Trojans having a 2-1 advantage in shots on goal.
The scored remained 0-0 until the 13:23 mark, when Brown made all the difference with his long, high shot that broke the deadlock.
“We had talked to (Brown), with conditions being the way they were, how important it would be to put shots on frame,” Hazekamp said. “We gave him the green light. He almost got one in the first half.”
When asked how he reacted when Brown’s long shot hit the mark, Hazekamp said he simply “looked for someone to hug.”
Brown’s penalty kick with 4:35 left erased any doubt, and a few minutes later the Trojans were hoisting the district tournament trophy.
Hazekamp said all the credit for the great season, and the district title, should go to the players for the way they have worked and handled themselves.
“It’s a super unselfish bunch,” the coach said. “They work so hard for each other and lay it on the line. They don’t ask questions – they just go out and do it.