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News / Sports / Prep Sports

All-Region boys soccer: Jake Connop, Columbia River

Since he was young, River’s Connop has outworked opponents

By Joshua Hart, Columbian sports reporter
Published: June 8, 2019, 8:28pm

Columbia River junior Jake Connop relishes the underdog role.

Often playing up two or three age levels in club soccer, he was tasked with competing against bigger, stronger and quicker players. He’s frequently faced with the same challenge for his high school squad.

“That’s always been me,” Connop said. “I’ve always been the youngest, always been the smallest, probably not the quickest. So I’ve always got to put my best foot forward and work for every ball.”

Connop, The Columbian’s All-Region boys soccer player of the year, outworked opponents to 50-50 balls, rose above taller defenders for spectacular finishes and ended with 26 goals and 10 assists in a state runner-up campaign for River (21-1-1).

While his mentality has been ingrained in him since he started playing as a youngster — and perhaps born into him from his soccer-loving England-native father — Connop had to learn a new skill to take his game to the next level this season: leadership.

After seven starters graduated from last season’s state championship team, Connop noticed something missing during a 2-2 tie against Skyview in nonleague play.

“I felt like we didn’t have as many vocal kids,” he said.

So he took it upon himself to embrace that role, one he’d never had to play before.

“At first it was a struggle,” Connop said.

But like he had to with his powerful shot and knack for finishing, Connop quickly polished the skill.

By season’s end, he was always the first to encourage a struggling player. When Aaron Espinosa mishit a 12-yard shot in a 1-0 state semifinal win over Fife, Connop ran over and placed an arm around the fellow junior’s neck and urged him to keep shooting.

“I think he really started to understand his influence on the team,” coach Filly Afenegus said. “He went from worrying about himself playing well to now, not only taking responsibility for his own performance but finding ways of inspiring and motivating his teammates.”

It helped that the Chieftains had their own “prove it” mentality throughout the season, wanting to show that the young and reloaded team wasn’t about to fade away.

They fought like underdogs despite a 45-game unbeaten streak and defending championship in tow at every step.

With Connop leading the charge, the Chieftains made the program’s second-ever state title game, a 1-0 loss to Sehome of Bellingham.

And with Connop returning for one more season, odds are good Columbia River soccer will make a strong run at a third straight appearance.

“Jake has a very high ceiling and I think he’s just scratching the surface right now,” Afenegus said. “While he’s becoming a great leader, there’s still untapped potential there that he’s just starting to realize. … I’m really excited to see him moving forward.”

Rest of the All-Region team

Alex Ashmore, Columbia River

Junior anchored a defense that allowed just 11 goals all season, including shutouts in 13 of last 18 games.

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Jackson Kleier, Columbia River

Junior outside defender scored five goals and had eight assists while helping a stout Chieftain defense.

Justin Lufkin-Quant, Mountain View

Finished senior campaign with five assists and was central figure in Thunder’s state semifinal run.

Aidan Thrall, Woodland

The junior scored 12 goals and added five assists in leading the Beavers to best finish in program history.

Jake Thompson, Skyview

The junior attacker earned league Offensive Player of the Year honors for the 4A GSHL champion Storm.

Owen Clayton, Prairie

Senior was named the 3A GSHL Defensive Player of the Year after anchoring defense that allowed just 24 goals.

Dylan De Baldo, Skyview

Senior goalie allowed 21 goals and was picked by league coaches as the Defensive Player of the Year.

Nathan Purvis, Mountain View

The sophomore and 3A GSHL Offensive Player of the Year burst onto the scene with 13 goals.

Zander Samodurov, Camas

Junior scored four goals and handed out 12 assists for the Papermakers, who finished second in league.

Dauda Woodruff, Camas

The junior striker  found the net 13 times for the Papermakers, including a pair of hat tricks.

Maksim Yurichko, Columbia River

The dynamic sophomore midfielder was essential in the Chieftain attack that scored 90 goals on the year.

Columbian sports reporter