Rod Petkovic is entering his 37th year as head coach of the Millikan boys’ soccer program. He’s the coach who founded the team, and has guided them to one of the best runs of any program in league history, including 10 of the last 11 Moore League championships.
In other words, Petkovic has heard it all. And this year, he’s heard plenty of talk about how the improved Moore League will knock his team off its perch, with the likes of Cabrillo and Wilson gunning hard for the Rams.
“It never really affects me, I never really care,” said Petkovic of the chatter. “I always believed, if it’s so easy to be a champion, nobody would finish second place. You have to outwork people–I can’t do anything about what other people are doing, I can just control how we work, and how we prepare. If other people prepare better, if they work harder, then they deserve to win.”
The Rams have 13 seniors, and Petkovic said it might be the smartest team he’s coached at Millikan, with a 3.5 GPA coming in on the lower side of the squad. More than his team’s smarts, it’s their hearts that have impressed Petkovic.
“Last week they shocked me, it was pouring rain and I said, ‘Let’s take a day off,’” he said. “We’ll get some fresh legs and come back the next day. They said, ‘Oh no, coach, we’re running.’ So they ran in the rain, five miles. You can’t coach stuff like that.”
The top players for the Rams figure to be fourth-year center back Oswaldo Cadena, 6’5” goalie Max Hintz, Cameron Badal (who had 26 goals as a junior last year), and Justin Huddleston, a formidable playmaker in the middle of the field.
Millikan (5-1-0) will be playing this season without longtime assistant coach Gabriel Tostado, who recently passed away at the age of 91 after 32 years of coaching the Rams’ goalies.
“We loved the man,” said Petkovic.