GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KJCT) – The Grand Junction football team started their season with three losses in four games. Then an astonishing turnaround pushed the Tigers into the States, winning nine of their last ten. After beating Steamboat Springs to open the playoffs on Thursday, Grand Junction is just four wins away from a CHSAA State Championship.
Midfielder Matthew Parkes has led the way all year with five goals and nine assists. The Tigers’ senior captain is our athlete of the week.
“I’m just trying to keep my eyes peeled for everyone,” Parkes told us. “We try to space it out as much as possible, own the ball when we can, and pass the front players to do their jobs.”
Having a strong midfielder is the number one key to success on the pitch. Parkes and midfielder Luis Aguirre each play an important role in finding the net, although they don’t score most of the goals themselves.
“The midfielder is the biggest part of the pitch,” said Tigers head coach Jonathan Pando. “When you have players like Matt and Luis controlling all of the midfield, it takes a lot of pressure off the shoulders of the coaches and off the shoulders of the other players.”
Parkes was born and raised in England, before moving to Grand Junction at the age of 13. Surprisingly, he says the game is actually a lot faster here in America.
“It’s a very different game in Europe,” he said. “The way you play is a lot slower. Here it’s almost like a track and field competition, the way some people run.
It certainly felt like a sprint on Thursday, with Junction and Steamboat Springs going back and forth in a thriller. The Tigers scored five goals in the second half, beating the Sailors 5-3 and keeping their hopes of winning a state title.
Grand Junction football heads to Cheyenne Mountain on Wednesday. A win would push the Tigers into the state quarterfinals.
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