Editor’s note: The Guam Daily Post reached out to the athletic directors and a few coaches from all schools on island for recommendations of senior athletes to profile for our features.
Editor's note: This is the first part of a two-part article chronicling Simon Sanchez High School multisport athlete Jayton Penaflor. As a member of the Sharks varsity football, soccer, rugby and paddling teams, he never gave up.
It’s not how you start, but how you finish.
For Jayton Penaflor, the road to becoming a Simon Sanchez High School Sharks standout athlete wasn’t easy. Growing up with 10 brothers and sisters, he sometimes sailed under the radar and got in all sorts of trouble. While a student at S.A. Benavente Middle School, his rebellious ways often got him into fights, landing him in the principal’s office.
Had Jayton Penaflor continued down this path, there’s no telling where he might have ended up.
“In all honesty, I was a very naughty kid,” Jayton Penaflor said. “A lot of teachers always disliked me because I was always causing fights.
“A lot of my friends didn’t like me because we never got along. Most of them always said, ‘you’re not going to graduate. You’re going to drop out of high school.’”
When Jayton Penaflor was promoted from middle school and enrolled at Sanchez, he joined the Simon Sanchez High School Army Junior ROTC program and received the discipline he had sorely missed. Under his instructors' watchful eyes, he wasn’t able to get away with the things that landed him in trouble. Through countless hours of drilling under the scorching sun of the school's parking lot, his immaturity melted away and his journey to becoming a young adult had begun.
As a member of JROTC, cadence and teamwork filled his heart with joy and reminded him of when he was younger.
“When I was a kid, I always played soldier,” Jayton Penaflor said. … "To me, playing soldier was the best thing. When I started watching movies, I started realizing how fun it looks. So, I wanted to give it a shot.”
In November, Jayton Penaflor, 17, decided to take his love of service to the next level. Midway through the 2019 Independent Interscholastic Athletic Association of Guam boys varsity soccer season, he joined the Guam Army National Guard.
For Jayton Penaflor, joining the GUANG gave him the opportunity to serve alongside his uncles, Jonathan Penaflor, Macario Penaflor, Jacob Penaflor and Vincent Penaflor, and was the realization of a lifelong dream. For Jayton Penaflor, being a guardsman allowed him to give back to his island.
“It’s exactly what I thought it would be,” Jayton Penaflor said. … “Not many people want to join to protect our island.
"Mostly, people just want to do it for the benefits. … I’m really proud to say, 'I am serving for our island and our country.'”
Jayton Penaflor, who hopes to go to college, join ROTC and become an officer, said being in the GUANG “has its days where it’s fun, then, it has its days where it’s really exhausting.”
But, for Jayton Penaflor, working to the brink of exhaustion is nothing new. As an ironman football player, he was the Sharks starting quarterback and free safety. Even before he played for Sanchez, as a member of the Guam Packers, he played on both sides of the ball.
"Ironman gives me pride because I'm able to play both ways throughout the whole game, even with other teams subbing out," Jayton Penaflor said. “It makes you feel like you’re the best on the field, but you know that you’re not.”
"His contribution to our team allowed us to make a championship run," said Guam Packers coach Drew Apatang. "He was one of our leaders," Apatang added.
“He had this drive and will to become better, always. He’s hard on himself.”
Jayton Penaflor is a young professional in whatever he does, added Apatang.
Between the time Jayton Penaflor graduated from Benavente Middle School and became a Packer, Apatang said, he had already shed his mischievous ways and was all business.
“From the time he came to the Packers, he was already rather humble,” Apatang said.
Surrounded by positive role models, Apatang and JROTC instructors Sgt. Maj. Jesus Leon Guerrero and Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Achivida, Jayton Penaflor marched onto the Sharks' gridiron and met another mentor.
During Jayton Penaflor’s first day of football practice, he met head coach Jimmy Naholowaa and was instantly inspired by his professionalism and the way he doled out discipline. Having played for coach Apatang, he felt he was ready to handle anything the legendary coach threw his way.
He was wrong.
Playing with the big boys, stakes got higher, and play got tougher.
“Going to high school, it was so different,” Jayton Penaflor said. “I never knew that staying on a field that long could exhaust you so much in a high school sport.”
As practices wore on, Jayton Penaflor developed a new appreciation for self-sacrifice and learned how to put the team’s needs first. He also learned discipline.
“Our coach taught us that discipline is all that matters,” Jayton Penaflor said. “You can be the best team on the island, and if you don’t have discipline, you’re not going to get anywhere.”
As the 2019 season wore on, and the Sharks’ injuries mounted, Jayton Penaflor summoned the courage to stay in the game. Bruised, punished, bloodied and defeated, he never gave up. Whatever his coaches asked, run the offense or make a big defensive stop, he never disappointed.
"As a player, he brought a lot of dedication," Naholowaa said. He "never, never gave up. He "would work through pain." He "would do everything asked of him, and try to do more. ...
"The kid worked hard every day. ... He led his team by example."
"You need heart to be a Shark football player," Jayton Penaflor said.
"You just can’t come out onto the Sharks field and expect to play because you’re an all-star," he added.
“You need to be able to take the coaches’ yelling," he said. "You need to work as a team. You need to learn that not everything is an I, it has to be together.”