COACH’S PERSPECTIVE — Chad Luttrull teaching life lessons winning soccer

Published 12:09 am Friday, January 31, 2020

The pressure is high for younger the Port Neches-Groves soccer team to live up to its reputation as defending district champion.

With four freshmen and eight sophomores, half the varsity squad is underclassmen. Four juniors and eight seniors balance the rest of the team, but for a varsity group, the makeup is still young, head coach Chad Luttrull said.

That won’t stop them from fighting though.

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“They’re hungry,” Luttrull said. “They have a lot to prove. We graduated our entire midfield last year pretty much and the guys are just looking to go out and prove that they can contend for another title.”

They’re off to a great start so far. The Indians are 10-1-3 before beginning their district slate today against Cleveland, their most recent win having come against Jasper, 4-2.

Leading the team in scoring has been junior Jason Lovejoy, who was District 21-5A MVP last year. He has 17 goals and 24 assists already this season. Luttrull says Lovejoy is close to breaking PNG’s record for career goals.

Sophomore Jesus Maldonado is just behind Lovejoy with 14 goals and four assists, and another sophomore, Tate Sandell, is further adding young talent, making eight goals and five assists this year.

Returning senior goalkeeper Isai Acosta is one of the upperclassmen stepping up to lead the team, Luttrull said. The Indians have only been scored against in three games, he said.

Luttrull said competition in district will be intense. Dayton and Cleveland have a lot of returning players, and Dayton in particular beat PNG twice last year despite PNG coming out with the district title.

Nederland defeated Memorial on Tuesday 2-0.

Barbers Hill is also a young team, Luttrull says, but they get better each year, and Vidor can be counted on to play physically and tough.

“It’s a very tough district,” Luttrull said. “Every week we tell these kids every Tuesday and Friday for the rest of the soccer season is going to be a battle. I tell those guys the most dangerous opponent we have is Cleveland on Friday.”

Luttrull passed a milestone on Jan. 17. The Indians’ 4-0 victory against Bullard at the Lufkin Hudson Showcase was Luttrull’s 250th career win as coach.

“It’s all the kids between here and Lumberton,” Luttrull said about the achievement. “I’ve just been very blessed with the kids that are in my program, and I tell them all the time I may get stats for wins and losses but it’s you guys that are winning the games. I’m just thankful that I got these kids who want to work hard, do what they’re told to do and go out there each and every Tuesday and Friday night and battle for it.”

Luttrull says his role in the achievement was in his mission to help kids grow in character as players and young men.

“There’s an old saying: ‘Kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,’” Luttrull said. “I try to teach them life lessons through soccer. If they go out and work hard, if we’re able to win games and we have to face some adversity and overcome that adversity, if they can do that on a soccer field, they’re going to do it down the road. I think that carries over a little bit. I just want to try to help these kids grow up, become good men and good husbands and fathers.”