‘Family’ of Titans elevate soccer game, make playoffs

Published 6:54 pm Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Many of Port Arthur Memorial’s players may have been a year more experienced on the soccer field this season, but that’s not the key to the Titans’ turnaround in District 22-5A that the coaches mentioned.

“Getting back to basics, teaching the basics and building from there,” assistant coach Mike Smith said.

The basics were not limited to the pitch. First-year coach Chris Bradford focused on helping the players become well respected on and off the playing surface.

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“As much as we want to have success in soccer, we want to have success in putting out fine young gentlemen into society and respectable young men in society,” Bradford said. “That’s what we focus on. The soccer comes as a reward.”

In soccer, Memorial has been rewarded handsomely.

The Titans finished second in 22-5A following Tuesday’s 2-0 home win over Nederland, sealing a four-game sweep of their Mid-County rivals. It also gave them a 9-4-1 district record (overall record was not available), a five-win improvement from last season.

Neither of the coaches attributed the district record to anything the Titans did on the field, but Smith said the players kept each other accountable — like a family would.

“When one of them slips up, their brother is there to pull them along or get them back into shape before it gets any worse,” he said. “And then, it becomes a family mentality. You don’t want to let your family down. You start building a stronger team every day.”

Unlike many teams, Memorial didn’t rely on just one player to provide most of the offense. Asked who’s led the Titans’ charge, Bradford pointed to three of his seniors, forward Sergio Sanchez, midfielder Andres Garcia and defenseman Ivan Barragan.

“Really, in the beginning, it was hard,” Sanchez said. “We started losing, and then we got together as a family and pushed together.”

But the early-season slate made the Titans better prepared for what they would face in 22-5A.

Memorial had two fewer wins behind Lumberton (16-6-1, 11-1-2) in district standings and actually one less than PNG (16-7-1, 10-4). But in UIL soccer, a points system is used to determine district standings, with three points awarded for a non-shootout win, two for a shootout win, one for a shootout loss and none for losing before a shootout. Lumberton had 35 points, Memorial had 28 points and PNG totaled 26.

Sanchez and Barragan scored against Nederland on Tuesday.

“The district was pretty tough,” Garcia said. “Any team in this district could have been beaten any team, really.”

Next for the Titans is a date with Humble in the 5A bi-district playoffs, and for PNG a meeting with Caney Creek. Times, dates and locations for each local playoff game are expected to be finalized Thursday.

And it’ll be Barragan’s first taste of the postseason.

“What I’m hoping is that we do a pretty good job,” he said. “We’ve been working hard in practice, competing really good against these district teams, and we’re trying to make it as far as we can.”

I.C. Murrell: 721-2435. Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews


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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