Cathe­dral’s Lugo moves on af­ter death of fa­ther

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - ERIC SOND­HEIMER ON HIGH SCHOOLS

With sweat drip­ping from his face on a cold Satur­day night in down­town Los An­ge­les, Alex Lugo of Cathe­dral High is sit­ting in the locker room mo­ments af­ter his spec­tac­u­lar as­sist led to a sud­den-death goal on a head shot from Omar Ar­ri­eta in the South­ern Sec­tion Di­vi­sion 1 soccer play­offs. Cathe­dral de­feated Ox­nard Huen­eme 1-0.

It’s the first time I’ve seen Lugo since the sad, emo­tional scene from a year ago, when he de­cided to play in the state re­gional play­off fi­nal against Loy­ola af­ter the death of his fa­ther in the morn­ing. The Phan­toms lost that game 2-1.

“I re­mem­ber the day,” he says in a low, sub­dued voice. “I looked into the sky and asked for per­mis­sion and I saw a sign.”

Sounds of team­mates yelling and cel­e­brat­ing can be heard in the back­ground as Lugo ex­plains the lessons he learned over the last year.

“I feel it’s part of life, some­thing God puts us through, and some­times life isn’t per­fect,” Lugo said. “You have to suf­fer, and that’s what God did to get me stronger as a per­son. I try to deal with it by hang­ing out with friends to get my mind off it.”

Lugo was 17 when his fa­ther, Abel, died. He’s an 18-year-old se­nior now. The heal­ing process con­tin­ues.

“I was a happy kid,” he said. “Once it hap­pened, it dropped me a lit­tle but I learned to cheer up. I do think of him. Of course he’s al­ways go­ing to be in my heart. Ev­ery game is for him.”

Soccer has brought Lugo friend­ships that will last a life­time. Hav­ing played along­side Ar­ri­eta since they were chil­dren helped lead to Satur­day’s dra­matic mo­ment.

It was the 96th minute. The ball was loose and headed out of bounds on the left side­line. Lugo re­trieved it and sent it fly­ing to­ward the mid­dle of the Huen­eme goal al­most as if he were try­ing a cor­ner kick.

Ar­ri­eta knew what to do. They’ve teamed up so many times through the years. He used his head to send the ball per­fectly into the right side of the net to end the game as team­mates stormed the field.

“I’ve been play­ing with him for 10 years,” Ar­ri­eta said.

Asked how Lugo was do­ing, Ar­ri­eta said, “He’s still heart­bro­ken.”

Friend­ships and soccer keep Lugo mov­ing for­ward.

The Phan­toms, seeded No. 2 for the play­offs, will play at Mis­sion Viejo on Wed­nes­day in the quar­ter­fi­nals.

No. 1 Loy­ola is at Hunt­ing­ton Beach Edi­son. A re­match in the cham­pi­onship game would be epic for the two down­town Los An­ge­les soccer pow­ers.

“Soccer guides my life,” Lugo said. “There’s still more to come.”

He sat on a bench in the locker room for a photo. He had a slight smile and gave the thumbs-up sign.

Life moves on.

Eric Sond­heimer Los An­ge­les Times

ALEX LUGO re­flects af­ter his spec­tac­u­lar as­sist led to a sud­den-death goal in Cathe­dral’s 1-0 South­ern Sec­tion Di­vi­sion 1 soccer play­off win over Huen­eme.

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