CEDAR SPRINGS – The Fruitport soccer team had a great goalie and elite defense this season, and before Thursday they went an amazing 13 games without giving up a goal.
But that streak ended late in the first half of the Trojans’ regional championship game against Grand Rapids Christian, and it turned out to be the only goal of the game.
Fruitport ended a great season with a painful 1-0 loss at Cedar Springs High School, one win shy of the state semifinals.
When the disappointment wears off, however, the Trojans’ accomplishments from 2023 will remain very much in focus:
An 18-3-3 record, a Division 2 district championship, and a tournament run that took them to the state Final 8.
“We knew and talked in game prep that one (goal) may do it,” said Fruitport Coach Dan Hazekamp. “But I was proud of our guys bouncing back. I didn’t feel like we hung our heads. We had some good chances against a really good team. They (Grand Rapids Christian) could win a state title.”
Fruitport senior standout Brady Brown believes that the best is yet to come for the young group of Trojans who have already accomplished so much.
The team’s tournament roster included 18 players who are juniors, sophomores of freshmen – including several standouts – and they can all return next season.
“lt’s really sad right now,” Brown said. “But we gave it all we had, and I felt we were in control most of the game.
“I believe in these younger kids on the team though, and we’ve tried to mentor them. I think they can come back and maybe even get them next year.”
Brown is one of seven departing seniors, and Coach Hazekamp credited the group for setting a high standard in the program for future players to follow.
“They can be looked upon as high character guys,” Hazekamp said. “They were guys who came through the system and developed over time. They’re guys who worked their butts off to get on the field and left it all out there.
“I think the younger guys will adopt that type of perseverance, and I think the seniors did a great job of leading and setting the tone.”
After not allowing an opposing goal since September 13, the Trojans finally allowed the ball into their net following a corner kick with 8:48 remaining in the first half.
Giving up a goal after so long undoubtedly came as a shock to the Trojans, but they didn’t hang their heads or fade away.
Fruitport outshot Grand Rapids Christian 6-3 on the night, including 5-2 in the second half, but ultimately neither team came close to netting a goal in a pouring rain over the final 40 minutes.
“lt’s been the whole year,” Hazekamp said about his team’s determination to keep fighting. “This is why this team got here. They work so hard. They’re so unselfish, and it’s really cliché to say, but for a group of teenage boys to give so much for one another is why I love them so much.
“They reflect our blue-collar community that’s hard-working and gives everything it has every time.”
After the game, Brown was seen with his arm around sophomore Jorge Burgos-Yack, the Trojans’ leading scorer this season, who will play an even bigger role with the team going forward.
“I was telling him, ‘You’re a great player,’” Brown said. “Over the last two years we’ve become really good friends. I love Jorge a lot. I was telling him he’s going to do a lot more than this. He may end up being one of the top players in the state, and possibly even the best.”