PORTAGE | Nate Johnson doesn’t need any decorations on his locker to signify which team he plays for.
The Portage senior is a football player on Friday nights and a soccer player every other moment of his life.
Johnson has important roles on both teams this season as the senior is the starting kicker on the football team and is a key defensive player on a Portage soccer team that is off to a 9-2 start.
“The soccer wins aren’t more important, but they mean a lot because I have a bigger role on the team,” Johnson said. “Both teams and my teammates have really been great with everything.”
Johnson was playing around in gym class in eighth grade when his teacher asked if he could kick a field goal. One attempt later, and the Indians found their kicker. While playing football has been enjoyable, soccer is still Johnson’s true love.
“Balancing both isn’t really that hard,” Johnson said. “Soccer practice doesn’t start until 3:30 and I’ll go out to football for about 20 minutes before that.”
On days like Wednesday, when the Indians were preparing for a road trip to take on Chesterton, Johnson skipped football practice to concentrate on the match. Come Friday night, Johnson will trade in his soccer kit for shoulder pads as Portage hosts the Trojans for homecoming.
Both the soccer and football teams have experienced a turnaround this season with football owning strong wins over Mishawaka and Crown Point. The soccer team started slow but has won its last seven matches entering Wednesday night.
“I didn’t really know what to expect from our team when the season started,” Johnson said. “After our first few matches I just didn’t know how we’d respond after graduating a bunch of seniors from last year. Everything is starting to come along.”
The Indians entered Wednesday’s match against the Trojans with a 3-1 record in the DAC, but Johnson isn’t concentrating on a conference crown. Johnson believes upcoming matches against Chesterton and Valparaiso will prepare the Indians for another postseason run. Portage made it to the sectional championship last season before falling 2-0 to the Vikings.
“We really like our schedule as we get ready for the postseason,” Johnson said. “We have really good competition that will prepare us.”
Johnson, who hasn’t ruled out playing soccer or football in college, is one of the few experienced returning starters in the lineup this season. The senior is doing what he can to get the rest of his teammates up to speed on the late-season matchups that will lead up to the postseason.
“It’s my job to let my teammates know what it means to play in the postseason,” Johnson said. “We’ve been playing well lately and we’re hoping to keep that up.”