Annual soccer tournament honors former player

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SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — A special soccer tournament is underway once again in northeastern Pennsylvania for Labor Day Weekend. It’s a match where everyone wins.

Jamie Kotula was only 16 years old when he lost his life in a car accident heading to school in 2011.

“It’s difficult. On the outside it’s easy to look okay and do what we have to do but on the inside every day there’s a missing piece. We’re broken,” Jamie’s dad John said.

Which is why Jamie’s family and friends have decided to keep his memory alive, with an event circled around what he loved best: soccer. The ninth annual Kotula Kickoff Classic began Saturday morning at Marywood University.

“It’s just wonderful. I hope Jamie’s looking down and if I know his personality, he’s looking down and saying this is all for me and he would be so grateful because he had such a big presence and a big personality that he would’ve been very grateful to everyone that came out and this truly has become one of our healing mechanisms,” John Kotula said.

More than 400 soccer players are taking the field this weekend for the competitive and friendly tournament. 12 teams are participating in the tournament. Six teams of girls and six teams of boys and the MVP of each team is winning a scholarship.

“Oh this is fantastic. It has grown in leaps and bounds,” Joe Dodgson, Jamie’s soccer coach said.

Dodgson was Kotula’s soccer coach at Holy Cross High School. He tells Eyewitness News Jamie has left an everlasting imprint on his life.

“When he passed, that changed my life to the point where I started to realize that coaching was not just wins and losses. Coaching was teaching kids and bringing them through life so they can face whatever comes to them now,” Dodgson said.

“Nine years later, we’re already talking about what’re we going to do for the 10th, what are we going to do beyond that so the community that’s around, it’s just incredible,” Antonio Hastie, Jamie’s friend said.

The Kotula Classic continues Sunday evening with championship games at both 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

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