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Spring Lake soccer surges past Reeths-Puffer, punches district finals ticket

Lakers will square off with rival Fruitport in Thursday’s district final.

Photos by Zach Zweigle | CatchMark

MUSKEGON — Spring Lake and Reeths-Puffer have been two of the better boys soccer teams in the area this season and they’ve been playing very well lately, reflected by their respective OK Conference titles.

Fans were certainly fired up for the Lakers’ and Rockets’ district matchup Tuesday at Reeths-Puffer’s Eric Marcil Field. Spectators packed the stands and lined the fence, intently watching as Spring Lake surged past Reeths-Puffer in the second half en route to a 3-1 victory in the Division 2 district semifinal.

You might expect a similar environment at Thursday’s 6 p.m. district final, where ninth-ranked Spring Lake (14-2-3) collides again with rival and seventh-ranked Fruitport (13-2-3).

Fruitport defeated Whitehall, 5-0, in the other semifinal Tuesday. It was the Trojans who last handed the Lakers a loss, a 4-2 decision Sept. 1. Since then, Spring Lake is 12-0-1, including winning the OK Blue Conference title. On Oct. 6, Spring Lake saddled Fruitport with its first defeat, 3-1.

OK Green Conference champion Reeths-Puffer closes with an 11-6-4 record.

The Spring Lake/Reeths-Puffer matchup Tuesday marked the sixth straight year they’ve been opponents in districts.

In this one, Reeths-Puffer carried a 1-0 lead into the halftime break. Spring Lake erupted for three goals in about a four-minute span, however, to turn the tide.

Spring Lake defeats Reeths-Puffer in a district semi-finals matchup at Reeths-Puffer High on Oct. 19, 2021, in Muskegon, Michigan (Zach Zweigle | CatchMark)

“The boys responded well at halftime. The big thing was that there was no panic,” Spring Lake coach Jeremy Thelen said. “We’ve scored many goals in the second half of games. … Obviously, the first 10 minutes after the half was the key difference in the game.”

Trailing 1-0, the Lakers tallied goals by junior Conrad Bush, senior Porter Saunders and junior Jack Mulder between the 34:22 and 30:49 marks of the second half to take control.

Reeths-Puffer kept battling and created scoring opportunities, but Spring Lake’s defense held its ground.

“The guys in the back — Jake Barnes, Hunter Malaski, Jaxson Tober, Deagan Carter — those guys all played great tonight, and Kole Pattyn played right in front of them,” Thelen said. “They all did an amazing job tonight.”

Reeths-Puffer, which beat state-ranked Ludington 2-0 in last week’s district opener, had been playing some of its best soccer in recent weeks.

Led by sophomore scoring sensation Liam Smith, the Rockets have been a tough out. It did not go their way Tuesday, but their coach was proud of the fight they displayed.

“What I saw was a group of desperate guys who did not want to see their season come to an end,” Reeths-Puffer coach Kody Harrell said. “It’s 12 seniors against 10 underclassmen. The bulk of our big minutes are coming from underclassmen.

“It’s not just seniors vs. sophomores, but there are 12 guys over there whose careers could come to an end tonight. You expect all of their intensity.”

Lead writer for CatchMark SportsNet and Web Services leader for CatchMark Technologies.

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