Always up for a challenge: National Guardsman to lead Eagles’ soccer charge

Published 9:01 pm Tuesday, June 21, 2016

John Morgan has served in the National Guard, played soccer at Louisiana College and earned an associate’s degree in aviation from Tulsa Community College. So, at 25, the product of suburban Memphis, Tenn., is always up for a challenge.

His latest one brings him to Port Arthur.

“Bob Hope was a really great opportunity for me, coming from Mississippi, where football is king, not soccer,” said Morgan, a Southaven, Miss., native who was recently hired as the head boys soccer coach at Bob Hope High School. (Southaven borders the southern Tennessee line.)

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“I figured that Texas would be a good opportunity for me to be a teacher and a coach in that area. I would be around players and people who care for the sport a little bit more.”

Morgan is one of three head coaches Bob Hope athletic director Rick Frey has hired early in the summer break. Erica Vendel was named girls soccer coach, while former Anahuac coach Brandee Elliott will take over the volleyball team, which made its first UIL playoff appearance last fall.

Four-year Lamar letterman and 2015 Southland Conference All-Academic performer Megan Campbell will volunteer with the girls team as well, Frey added.

“Getting him as a coach is huge,” Frey said of Morgan. “It’s hard to find a soccer coach over here. I know of a couple of schools in our district that can’t find a soccer coach.”

Morgan’s hire is also key for a school that is moving from Class 2A to 3A in most sports. The boys soccer team, which was not a UIL program last year, will compete in 4A, the league’s lowest soccer class.

The Eagles will try to build on an 8-1 record from last season that included victories over bigger schools such as Silsbee and Lumberton. Port Arthur Memorial handed Bob Hope its only defeat.

“Being as successful as they were last year — and, clearly, they’ve got the skill — I’m hoping we can bring another standard,” Morgan said. “This is where they were, this is where they were successful. Let’s take it a few steps further. They’re very skilled at what they do, but we don’t ever want to be content.”

Morgan knows about competing at a high level. After graduating with his aviation degree, he played collegiately at Louisiana College before suffering an injury. He then graduated from Ole Miss and went into the Guard, where he is in the second of a six-year commitment.

“A lot of these players want to play in college, so a lot of our games are going to be in cup tournaments where the scouts are going to be,” Morgan said. “It’s pivotal these guys are putting on a good show every game, but I imagine we have one of the toughest schedules in the state.”

They do.

The Eagles will take on defending state champion Palestine on Feb. 10 and face the likes of Katy and Lake Travis in the Brenham Select Cup and Brenham Showcase.

This won’t be Morgan’s first coaching gig. He coached one year at Magnolia Heights Academy in the junior-college town of Senatobia, Miss.

“Most of the funding came out of my own pocket,” Morgan said. “Soccer really wasn’t a big thing, but we started from the bottom with seventh- and eighth-grade kids. As sophomores and juniors, they made it to their first state tournament game.”

Bob Hope plays its home games at the Gulf Coast Youth Soccer League fields on Twin City Highway, but Frey said the school is working on a new field at Bob Hope’s new elementary facility at the former Trinity Baptist Church on 32nd Street.

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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