North Muskegon football loses heartbreak to Wyoming Potter’s House in D4 regional final


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North Muskegon’s Brandon Winter (7), Hunter Koekkoek (3) and Dylan Schultz (11) celebrate Winters’ goal in their team’s 3-2 win over Whitehall on Monday, October 5, 2020, in Whitehall, Mich. (Scott DeCamp | MLive .com)

The North Muskegon boys’ soccer team faced Wyoming’s No.6 Potter’s House Christian in their Division 4 regional final game Thursday at Cadillac High School.

This is what made the end result so heartbreaking for the Norsemen.

With less than three minutes to go in a scoreless game, Wyoming Potter’s House senior Jonathan Stout attempted to chase a ball between two North Muskegon defenders and was knocked to the ground on the play.

A free-kick attempt was attributed to Michigan State’s engagement, and it quickly scored the only goal of the game, as Wyoming Potter’s House survived for a 1-0 win over North Muskegon. The Pumas (22-3-1) will advance to take on Holland Black River (13-8-1) in the Division 4 semifinals on November 3 at 6 p.m. from the Pat Patterson complex in Kentwood.

North Muskegon ends his season with an 11-12-2 overall record and his best playoff result since finishing second in state in 2005.

“I think we did a good job neutralizing (Jonathan Stout) today,” said North Muskegon head coach Jeremy Tjapkes. “He’s a dynamic player for them, and I think Hunter Koekkoek played exceptional defense on him throughout the game and limited his shots to next to nothing.

“Offensively, we just struggled to create scoring opportunities in the first half and we had a handful of chances in the second half and we didn’t take advantage of them. Their keeper made some big saves to keep us off the board, the momentum shifted back and forth throughout the game and it ended up being a free kick at the end.

Despite a tough end to the season, Tjapkes left the field on Thursday night knowing his team played an almost perfect game against one of the top teams in Division 4.

“It’s just one of those things where there are no words that are going to make the boys feel better after such a loss,” he said. “Rather than trying to fill them with stop words, I just told him how proud I was of them. We always ask our boys to do two things – do their best and bring their best attitude, ”he said. “We had both tonight and I don’t think we could have played much better than the way we played. It was a big game, both teams really wanted it and they just made a late play which ended up making the difference.

“As a coach you always think of ways you could have done things differently, and maybe we could have gotten a different result, but I couldn’t have asked for a better effort from my boys. They played hard and they made us proud tonight.

North Muskegon got used to playing against state-ranked opponents this fall, as the Norsemen sailed through a tough regular-season schedule and entered the playoffs with a fair amount of confidence.

The Norsemen defeated Pentwater (3-0) in the district semifinals and knocked down Ravenna (2-0) in the district championship game. North Muskegon then added a 1-0 decision over McBain in Tuesday’s Division 4 regional semifinals before falling to Wyoming Potter’s House on Thursday night.

“We’ve played nine or 10 state-ranked teams this year and it can get expensive when you have to split your roster between the JV and varsity teams with just 28 kids in total,” Tjapkes said. “We had to change our roster due to injuries and we didn’t really have a lot of substitutes to work with for most of the year.

“Our children kept the faith and they continued to work. They learned from some of those moments and while we didn’t have a lot of wins, we just got better and better with every game we played. We felt pretty prepared when the playoffs rolled around, and I think the boys have played some of their best games in recent weeks. “

North Muskegon will graduate 10 seniors from this year’s squad, but bring back a dedicated group of underclasses ready to build on what the 2021 squad has accomplished.

“Some of these young guys haven’t had a lot of playing time in college this year, and I think they really want to play a bigger role next year,” Tjapkes said. “The young players have shown great growth this year and just worked their butt when they started playing because they wanted to make their senior buddies proud.

“I think they admired these seniors and now they want to make them proud and do well next year for them. I’m sure we’ll have plenty of new starters in our roster, but I’m sure we’ll see a similar work ethic from next year’s squad.

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