FRUITPORT – Fruitport’s Braylon Marshall does a lot of things on the field that don’t grab a lot of headlines.

He has played a big role on defense, helping the Trojans post a school record 12 shutouts this year, including an amazing 10 in a row and counting.

He’s also very active on the offensive end and leads the team with 12 assists.

As Fruitport Coach Dan Hazekamp put it, “He’s the guy who really holds us together. He connects the back to the front.”

Fruitport’s Braylon Marshall

Perhaps more importantly, Marshall is the Trojans’ emotional leader who pumps up his teammates with his constant hustle and vocal encouragement.

“He’s probably our most vocal player,” Hazekamp said. “He galvanizes and brings kids together. He’s respected by all the kids on the team.”

While Marshall may not get as much notice as some other standouts, the senior captain doesn’t care at all.

He loves soccer, his team and winning, and he’s squeezing every bit of joy that he can out of his final varsity season.

Marshall (11) competing against Spring Lake, which he will do again in the district semifinals on Thursday. Photo/Jeremy Clark

“I don’t care who gets the points or who stops the shots,” Marshall said. “It’s a team fight and everyone is together at the end.

“This season has been the best experience I’ve ever had. The whole environment is amazing. The coaches are amazing, and everyone has been putting in the effort in practice and in games.”

Marshall and the Trojans, with their impressive 15-2-3 record, will try to keep their season alive on Thursday when they face rival Spring Lake in the Division 2 district semifinals at Grand Rapids Northview High School.

A victory would put Fruitport in Saturday’s district championship game against Allendale or Northview.

“I am ecstatic,” Marshall said, when asked how excited he is about playing the Lakers and trying to keep the season alive. “I believe in our team, and I know we’re ready to go into any fight, no matter who the opponent is.”

Marshall and teammate Braxton Ward (14) battle an opponent for the ball. Photo/Jeremy Clark

Before the season started, it might have been hard to convince anyone that the Trojans would be this successful. They lost 12 seniors to graduation last spring and had a lot of new faces stepping into starting roles.

But Marshall, always the optimist and intense warrior, said he believed from the beginning.

“I have always believed in every single one of these guys,” he said. “We have that dog in us. We’re fierce. We go into every game being the beasts that we are.

“We knew it from the start. We were all in the same mindset – wanting to have a long season.”

Marshall has pushed himself for the past four years to constantly improve, and worked extra hard after his junior year to prepare for his grand finale on varsity.

Marshall takes a corner kick. Photo/Jeremy Clark

“He has made a sizable jump from where he was as a freshman and sophomore,” Hazekamp said. “He has invested a lot of time, energy and hard work, to the point where he’s now a standout on the field.

“He was a great leader in our summer stuff – conditioning and preseason work. All of his hard work and growth have allowed him to have a really great senior year.”

Marshall said his main focus this season has been helping everyone on the team stay positive, so the great results keep rolling in.

“I like supporting others,” he said. “I want to make sure everyone is excited for the games, and if anyone makes a mistake, I want to let them know that the next play is theirs. I like lifting everyone.”

Marshall is keenly aware that the Trojans’ next loss in the state tournament – if that occurs – will be the end of his high school career.

“That motivates me to put everything on the line, give it my all and leave it all on the field for Fruitport,” he said.  eddie