FHC varsity Soccer Falls to East Kentwood in District Semifinals

FHC varsity Soccer Falls to East Kentwood in District Semifinals

Sam Hopkins, Sports Editor

On August 19th, the FHC varsity soccer team took on East Kentwood at Crest Wood Middle School and suffered a defeat 2-0 to start out the season with a loss. On October 20th, almost exactly two months later a matured Ranger’s team battled the Wildcats with an almost identical outcome. This time, the Rangers weren’t being handed their first loss, rather their last.

On Thursday night, FHC faced off against East Kentwood in the District Semifinals. When all was said and done, the Wildcats walked away with a 2-0 win and a chance to take home the District Championship in their next matchup.

Beginning with the first whistle, East Kentwood came out fast and controlled both the tempo and physicality of the game. During the first fifteen minutes of play, the Rangers spent the majority of their time defending their net. The Wildcats had numerous chances early that eventually led to a goal.

With thirty-two minutes to go in the first half, the Wildcat forward sent a cross into the box that found the left foot of another attacker. The East Kentwood attacker poked the ball past the diving reach of junior goal keeper Jared Ireland to give the Wildcats their first lead of the game.

“Throughout the game, they were focused on playing it down line and then getting into the box,” senior captain Noah Saleh said. “That’s exactly what happened during their first goal tonight.”

After conceding an early goal, the Rangers cleaned up their play and had more opportunities on the offensive side of the ball. With the clock winding down to halftime, the Rangers’ play became more attacking but the East Kentwood defense survived the pressure.

“We wanted to go wide and serve balls in,” head coach Blair Lincoln said. “We just didn’t execute. They had a good defensive scheme so hats off to them.”

As the first half came to an end, the Rangers trailed the Wildcats by a slim margin of 1-0.

As the second half got underway, it was evident that both teams had made adjustments at the half.

“We switched up our focus on defense, ” Saleh said. “They put a lot of pressure on early, so we dropped more back and defended the middle of the field.”

With thirty-seven minutes to go, Jared came up with one of the biggest saves of the night. On a shot from outside the box by the Wild Cats left-mid, Jared took two steps left and dove to meet the ball as it hurled towards the back of the net. Getting his outstretched hand on the ball, Jared made a key save keeping the Rangers score deficit at one.

The second half remained eventful with lots of physical play and numerous injuries. The fast paced play favored the Rangers who brought on fresh legs periodically.

With fourteen minutes of game time remaining, senior Shane Sebuck almost knotted the score at one a piece.  After the Ranger attack won a corner kick, Shane managed to win a header and put it on goal.  His scoring chance was met by a save from the Wildcat goalkeeper.

“We couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net tonight,” Lincoln said. “When you can’t score, you don’t deserve to win.”

With the time running out, FHC pushed more players upfield into the attacking third.

With four minutes remaining, East Kentwood counter-attacked the FHC pressure and was able to break free and score another goal securing their victory.

“We held them for a while after their first goal,” Senior Dylan Mackey said. “Eventually, our defense fell out of position and they put one more on the board.”

Although the Rangers were eliminated in the District Semifinals, the Rangers realized the adversity they faced and how they overcame the inexperience throughout the season. Dylan voiced his opinion on the season as a whole.

“Coming into the season no one knew what to expect,” he said. “We had lost thirteen guys, and the expectations for the season were low.  It was great, exceeding everyone’s expectations and winning conference. I’m thankful for our season even though it didn’t end like we had hoped.”