Very few envisioned Fremont’s boys soccer team making such a dramatic turnaround this season after scuffling to a 4-15-1 record last fall, but here are the Packers with 21 victories.
Very few saw Fremont rallying from an early two-goal deficit in Tuesday night’s lightning-delayed Division 3 regional semifinal, but the unranked Packers did just that in a 3-2 victory over a skilled, 11th-ranked Kingsford squad at Gaylord. Energetic senior Chaz Miller’s header with 55 seconds left capped the comeback.
This group of Fremont players and coaches has been determined from the beginning of the season and keeps on believing. With their hustling, never-out-of-it attitude, the Packers have made history and they have an opportunity to make more.
Fremont (21-1-1) advances to the regional finals for the first time in school history, taking on eighth-ranked Alma (19-4-0) at 6 p.m. Thursday at Big Rapids High School. Alma defeated Grand Rapids Catholic Central, 2-0.
Kingsford finishes its special season with a 21-2-0 record.
“Do you want more? Of course, you want more. I couldn’t be more pleased with these guys,” Fremont coach Steve Vissia said. “But, yeah, we absolutely are going to fight for the next one as well.
“That’s one thing about this team that has been so true: Although we’re not supposed to be in this position, right – we had four wins last year; nobody expects us to win even 10 games, let alone 21 and win the district and win the first game (of the regional) – but they just are scrappy and they figure out a way to get it done and there’s just no quit in them.”
After Fremont made a 3 ½-hour drive to Gaylord – Kingsford’s was even longer – the regional semifinal matchup had to wait until the previous game on that field was completed. Fruitport’s 2-0 victory over Marquette in a Division 2 regional semifinal was delayed by lightning. Fremont’s contest against Kingsford did not begin until 9 p.m., if not a little later.
Once the match did begin, Fremont saw Kingsford jump out to a 2-0 lead with a pair of goals nearing the midway point of the first half. Jett Buckley scored for the Flivvers at the 23-minute mark, then 10 seconds later Jaxon Buckley made it 2-0.
The Packers hadn’t trailed by two goals since their lone loss of the season, 4-2, against Ludington on Sept. 25.
Vissia said the tide started to turn in Fremont’s favor from the 20-minute mark of the first half, even though Fremont was unable to get on the board before the halftime break.
“We were down and everybody’s hanging their heads and I said, ‘Boys, we’ve still got half of a half left the rest of the second half and we can pull it off,’” Miller said.
“We were still down 2-0 at halftime. We were down one to Montague (at halftime in the district semifinals) and we came back 3-1. And we’ve came back before and we can beat teams with our hustle. They were more skilled than us. I mean, we’ve been in that situation before – teams that are more skilled than us – we just hustle.”
Fremont finally found the back of the net with 33 minutes remaining, when the Flivvers struggled to clear a Packers corner kick and senior Silas Rinne buried his opportunity for a 2-1 score.
Fremont tied it 2 with 7:33 left. Miller said that sophomore Deagan Klimek fired an “absolute rocket,” which went off the keeper’s hands directly to Miller, who was wide open and “just rifled it.”
Miller scored the game-winner in the final minute. According to him, Silas “just bombed it in there” on a free kick from about half-the-field away and Miller got his head on the ball and “flicked it backwards” from about the penalty-kick stripe.
“That’s probably the fastest I’ve ever ran my entire life,” Miller said. “And then my buddy John (Vissia), he was screaming, ‘Take your shirt off! Take your shift off!’ but I’m like, ‘Uh, dude, there’s still like 30 seconds left. We’ve still got to play defense.’ I mean, the last thing we wanted was to give up a goal with 30 seconds left.”
Fremont closed it out and now the Packers get a chance to do it all over again Thursday.
The Packers are among the final eight of the state.
“Although we didn’t get (a goal) in the first half, you could definitely see a change at halftime. My talk was, ‘You’re going to grind this out and we have enough time. It’s going to come. It’s going to come,’” Steve Vissia said. “Sure enough, the first corner we had, we sent everybody and finished one and that just, it gave us hope and we continued on. But we pressed and pressed and pressed.
“The back played outstanding. Their No. 10 is a phenomenal player, Jaxon (Buckley).”
Fremont outshot Kingsford, 15-7. Sophomore Caleb Vissia made five saves for Fremont, while Landon Adam had 12 stops for Kingsford.
A bit of an afterthought entering the season, Fremont rolled to the West Michigan Conference title and its first district title since 2006.
More hardware is within the Packers’ grasp, but they haven’t gotten too far ahead of themselves all season and don’t intend on starting now.
“From this point on, we have known that we are not going to be the more skilled team,” Miller said. “So, going back to what we said (during the CatchMark SportsNet Podcast), we’ve got to hustle for everything. And if we can pull off another hustle win on Thursday, that will be the highlight of my high school career and I’m more of a basketball guy. That would be crazy.”
WATCH THE CATCHMARK SPORTSNET PODCAST FEATURING FREMONT SOCCER
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