GJ's Chaffetz uses his size, speed to advantage
From the center attacking midfield position, Jake Chaffetz covers a lot of ground for the Grand Junction High School boys soccer team.
He can track back on defense, using his 6-foot-1 frame to challenge players for the ball and his blazing speed to close any space the attacker has created.
In the passing game, his size and speed gives him 360-degree range to connect with teammates, and often those passes are bound for the Tigers’ lone striker, Abram Sanchez.
That offensive freedom also allows him to attack the net, whether that’s weaving through multiple defenders or launching long shots on the net. It’s a change from years past when Chaffetz played on the wing or at forward.
The Tigers’ 4-5-1 formation has more or less unlocked Chaffetz to affect play across the entire field. It’s also given Grand Junction the top offense in Class 5A.
The Tigers have scored 53 goals this season, the most in their classification. It’s also the most goals scored by a team on the Western Slope this season, regardless of size. Chaffetz has 13 of those goals and assisted on another nine. Sanchez has a team-high 14 goals, creating an effective combination in the middle.
“I feel like (attacking midfielder) is my true position,” Chaffetz said. “With my size and speed, and it gives me more freedom as a player, which I like. I like to look for different opportunities and different plays and I think it just fits my entire skill set.”
Grand Junction still runs a possession-heavy offense, similar to what was run under former Tigers head coach Stephen Latta. With Latta now in an assistant coach role, first-year head coach Jonathan Pando has a team with nine seniors and a glut of midfield talent. That spurred the shift to five midfielders, giving multiple experienced players the option to join Sanchez in the attack as needed.
The formation works for two reasons, Pando said. The Tigers have intelligent midfielders who have a good feel for soccer and Sanchez operates well in the attack, whether he’s alone or with teammates.
Chaffetz, in the middle, can help drive that offense forward.
“I think you can put him out on the wing and he’d also be very successful,” Pando said. “But the system that I’m trying to get the boys to learn is with (Chaffetz) and Abram connecting to each other because they’re both such strong individual players, yet they’re both very smart in knowing when to do the 1-2s and make it effective, get down the field, and get everybody involved.”
Jose Avila and Rogelio Lariz patrol the wings, with Garrison Corn and Hunter Hockins joining Chaffetz in the middle. When the Tigers’ offense is at its best, it includes long stretches of possession in the midfield where each player works for opportunities to pierce the opposing defense with the perfect pass.
Add in soccer smarts and athleticism, and it’s a tough formula to beat.
“It’s not only Jake, but the boys around Jake, too, who give him that freedom to run up 30 or 40 yards by himself,” Pando said.
“Of course Jake is a good, skillful player, but those guys in the midfield give him the opportunity by being great off the ball, creating space, taking defenders away with them and they all connect real well. They’ve been playing club forever, so it’s a very good midfield.”
Chaffetz has recruiting interest from several Division I colleges, including Air Force and Utah Valley University.
He’s also been in contact with the coaching staff at Fort Lewis, which won Division II national championships in 2005, 2009 and 2011. Sanchez has drawn interest from Colorado Mesa.
Chaffetz said he’s interested in winning a Southwestern League championship and being successful in the 5A postseason.
“High school soccer brings a more competitive mind-set for me because it’s more about passion for the school and for the city,” Chaffetz said. “Trying to show what we’ve got over at Junction.”