2016-02-19 / Sports

Laffoon finds a home on the pitch

Simi Valley senior defender overcomes turbulent childhood
Jonathan Andrade
@J_ Andrade_ on Twitter

ALL-STAR—Lance Laffoon is an All-Coastal Canyon Leaguefirst team defender for the Simi Valley High boys’ soccer team, which opens the Division 1 playoffs today at home. 
Photos by MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers ALL-STAR—Lance Laffoon is an All-Coastal Canyon Leaguefirst team defender for the Simi Valley High boys’ soccer team, which opens the Division 1 playoffs today at home. Photos by MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers Soccer is a way for kids to have fun, stay active and meet new friends.

For Lance Laffoon, the sport was more than just a hobby.

The beautiful game gave the now-Simi Valley High senior a break from a turbulent childhood. It provided him with a distraction from an often cruel, unfair world.

Laffoon’s father, Gary Laffoon, died of a drug overdose when Lance was 3 years old. The younger Laffoon frequently moved around the San Fernando Valley with his mother, Gretchen Laffoon, and his four siblings. They searched for a place to call home.

At age 6, Lance and his younger sister, Kristin, moved into the loving home of their great-aunt and great-uncle John and Gretchen Czach and their son, Jake, in Simi Valley.

It was a tough transition for Laffoon, who admitted the finer details of his youth are fuzzy because he was so young.

Through all the disorder, he always maintained a positive outlook. He still does.

“It taught me to not take things for granted,” the 17-year-old said of his childhood. “Don’t complain. There are people out there that have it tougher than you. Thank God for what you have.”

There’s more to his story, and the senior declined to elaborate on specifics, but the point is clear: Laffoon didn’t enjoy an idyllic childhood.

Gretchen Czach, who grew up playing soccer, signed Laffoon up for soccer to keep him preoccupied while he transitioned to his new home. He also dabbled in youth basketball and baseball leagues, but soccer became his passion.

He started taking the sport seriously at 12. He bounced around from club team to club team until he found a niche with the Oxnard Athletic Club.

Lance Laffoon Lance Laffoon Simi Valley head coach Tim Clunen, in his fourth season at the helm, said he noticed Laffoon’s defensive prowess when the Pioneer was a freshman.

Clunen described Laffoon as a mature, polite and humble superstar with an unparalleled physical style of play.

Coastal Canyon League foes never accounted for Laffoon because he had not seen the field much the previous two years. His grades made him ineligible as a sophomore; a broken clavicle in the second game of his junior season ended Laffoon’s first real chance at showcasing his elite skills.

Opponents noticed the center back this winter.

The senior was instrumental in the revival of the boys’ soccer program. He helped Simi Valley compile an 11-4-2 overall record, including 4-3-1 in league, by shutting down opposing strikers. The 6-foot defender earned All- Coastal Canyon first team honors.

“ You can ask anybody we’ve played against, they all know who he is,” Clunen said. “He’s fast and strong. He’s a Division I athlete. We don’t have many of those out here.

“He’s the best player we’ve had in my four years at Simi Valley.”

Teammates rave about Laffoon’s impact during matches.

“He’ll do anything it takes to make sure he gets to that ball first,” senior defender Ryan Pfaffenberger said. “He never lets anything get past him. He’s such a strong player. He takes control of the game. He’s a leader out on the field.”

Laffoon, who hasn’t gleaned any scholarship offers yet, plans on suiting up at Moorpark College until he can transfer to a Division I school. He’s also considered hanging up the cleats to join the military.

It would be a shame if Laffoon never stepped onto a soccer pitch after high school.

“I think if he decided to make a career of soccer, he’d be able to go far with it,” Pfaffenberger said. “I’ve been playing soccer for 11 years. I’ve never seen someone willing to go get the ball like him.”

Good news: Laffoon wants to continue playing soccer at the next level.

He said he’s thankful he was able to enjoy a complete senior season with the Pioneers.

“High school soccer is fun,” he said, “but I feel if we don’t do anything in playoffs, it won’t mean much. Hopefully I can help my team get some wins.”

Simi Valley plays Ventura at 3 p.m. today at home in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section

Division 1 playoffs.

Laffoon set the bar high for future Simi Valley players.

“Before wins and losses, ( players are) accountable,” Clunen said. “You respect your opponent, you respect the referees and you respect the game. Lance epitomizes that.

“He’s the first to practice and he’s the last one to leave. When you have someone who’s as skilled and athletically gifted as he is, that’s a once-in-a-generation athlete.”

Email Jonathan Andrade at jandrade@theacorn.com.

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