GV sweeper Morton earns county boys soccer player of the year honor

In this October 2020 file photo, Grand Valley's Luke Morton controls the ball at Badger during a Division III boys soccer district tournament game. Morton has been selected the 2020 Ashtabula County Boys Soccer Player of the Year.

Luke Morton’s defensive prowess at sweeper earned him the boys soccer county Player of the Year.

He helped Grand Valley total a school-record 11 wins and a trip to the Division III district tournament.

“Honestly, I was shocked that I actually got it because it’s hard for defenders to get awards like that,” Morton said. “Everyone wants to focus on goals scored, assists and stuff like that so then defenders are often overlooked in the decision process because of the low [offensive] stats.”

Morton did not always play on the defense end.

He began his career at left wing, but GV coach Rick Huffman’s versatile expectations for his players, paired with a tough opponent in the final game, gave Morton his first opportunity at sweeper.

“The sweeper we had, who was a senior, moved up to play offense because it was our final game and we were clearly going to lose,” Morton said. “So that was my first taste as sweeper. I had always looked up to that sweeper, and I wanted to take his position.”

During the offseason, Morton played in a club league with Huffman. Morton continued to do well as sweeper in the club league so Huffman decided to keep him there once the high school season started.

Over Morton’s four years, both he and the team continued to improve.

“I’m a lot more mature than I was freshman year,” Morton said. “Along with that, I’ve improved technically and physically. Coach has us run miles basically as a warmup before practices. So we’re in quite pristine shape when we get to the season.

“One of our goals is to be the most physically fit and technically sound team in the conference, and I feel like we were quite close to meeting that goal this year. In the past we have struggled with that.”

Morton, one of three seniors, used his leadership as one of GV’s three captains to lead by example.

He stayed after practice to work with freshman Austin Hoffman. Morton helped him work on his foot skills.

He showed Hoffman proper kicking technique, and Hoffman steadily improved.

“He didn’t have the best foot skills, and he didn’t have a powerful kick,” Morton said. “He definitely loved the game. His kick strength at least doubled from the start of the season. It was fun. We would just hangout. It was cool becoming friends with a freshman and just helping include him in the team.”

Morton and his team bought into Huffman’s coaching style, which they feel helped them build the groundwork of a successful program moving forward.

“[Huffman] wants to focus on team rather than individuals,” Morton said. “That approach is something I can definitely get behind. It’s just overall having the team being built up helps the future classes.”

Morton’s high school soccer career may have ended in October, but he still wants the Mustangs to continue the trend of improvement they have been on the past six years.

“Every single year we’ve gotten further in the postseason, and we hope to continue that,” Morton said. “I feel like me and the other two seniors left us at a good status this year.”

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