The Grudge: Camp Verde vs. Sedona

Staff photo by Jared Dort

FIVE years of intense rivalry between Camp Verde and Sedona will come to a head Friday night.

At the time, Sedona Red Rock was a small 2A school struggling to get through its season, while Camp Verde was a seasoned veteran in athletics.

That year, led by first-year Coach Luke Steege, the Cowboys gave their cross-Valley foes a warm introduction to 3A football — a 35-0 shellacking.

The following year, Jim Cromartie took over the fledgling group and turned Sedona into competitors. Camp Verde still won the meeting in a narrow 14-13 decision, but at least it was a contest.

Cromartie’s second year was not as pleasant. Sedona, plagued by injuries and lack of players, won only one game and lost 48-0 to Camp Verde.

It was after that massacre on Sedona’s home field when the rivalry really came to a head.

In 2002, Sedona’s enrollment soared above 450, and for the first time in school history, both teams would compete on the same level and for something far more important than bragging rights.

Moving up to 3A placed Cromartie’s squad in the same region with Steege’s group. Now, region records and state playoff spots were on the line.

Sedona would go on to win the outing 6-0 in Camp Verde. It was the school’s first win in football against the southerners. The rivalry finally was competitive.

At the time, the loss was Camp Verde’s second in the region, but the team went on to win four of its last five and advanced to state. Once there, the Cowboys fell 20-14 to Winslow, the No. 1 seed from the North.

Had Camp Verde won that contest against Sedona, it would have taken an easier draw into the playoffs and possibly advanced to the second round — and who knows from there.

Sedona got the upper hand again in last year’s meeting, winning 20-12. A Camp Verde fumble on the 1 secured the lead.

The defeat was devastating. It bounced the Cowboys, 2-1 in the region, out of playoff contention that year.

Fast forward to today. Five years later, Steege and Cromartie are still at the helm. This time around, the game doesn’t have the same implications as it had the past two seasons. Camp Verde (0-3) has been eliminated from the playoff picture, but Sedona (2-1) is still in it.

This will be the final year that the two teams from the Verde Valley meet in region play. Camp Verde, which is moving down to 2A next fall, has one final shot at avenging two years of heartbreak, and spoiling Sedona’s playoff chances for once.

Is Camp Verde, a 1-7 team, capable of making Friday’s meeting a game? Steege thinks so.

“Anytime Camp Verde and Sedona get together it’s a good game,” Steege said. “Jim (Cromarite) is always prepared. If we play the way I know we can, we can win this one. We want to finish 3-7.”

Sedona’s skipper feels the same way.

“We’re not taking them lightly. The past two years have been close. It will be a tough game for us,” he said.

If history serves as any reminder, eight points or less have decided the past two outings. That’s a touchdown and a successful two-point conversion.

This year’s numbers, however, tell us this year’s installment may not be as close.

Through eight games, Sedona has scored 198 points while giving up 139. Camp Verde’s total is 73 scored and 321 against.

It’s true that Camp Verde had a tougher schedule with games against Queen Creek and Coolidge, two of the best in the state. In those outings, the combined points allowed were 116. But, the fact is that Sedona can flat out score while Camp Verde is struggling on offense.

If you compare the final scores from teams both Sedona and Camp Verde played, you’ll get a different story. Against Fountain Hills, Sedona lost 19-0. Camp Verde lost 34-0.

Games against River Valley (3-0) tell a similar tale. Sedona fell 20-0 and Camp Verde 35-0. The difference at this point is how each team did against Parker. Sedona pounded the Broncs 48-7 while Camp Verde was pounded, 41-14.

The Scorpions’ running game is much stronger than the Cowboys. Adam Senger has 791 yards on 116 carries with 15 touchdowns. Tommy Wyatt is next with 535 yards, 86 carries and four TDs.

The Cowboys’ Demetri Baca has 627 yards on 132 carries, but only three rushing TDs. Jacinto Diaz is second with 113 yards on 14 touches.

In the passing game, Camp Verde is impressive. Zach Hauser is 68-for-187 with 992 yards and six TDs. He averages about 124 yards per game.

Luke Hicks, Alex Lewis and William Trahin all have more than 200 yards receiving. Hicks has 280, Lewis — in four games — has 260 and Trahin has 230.

Wyatt from Sedona has only 21 completions on 47 attempts for 324 yards and two touchdowns. Three receivers are in the 100s, but nobody is above the 200 mark.

Although Camp Verde’s defense has given up gobs of points this year, which could be less by taking away offensive turnovers in the red zone, both teams are pretty close.

Baca has 93 tackles compared to Sedona’s John Michael Reynolds at 128. Baca does have eight more tackles for losses. Next is Kevin Getman with 62 and Brett Senger with 115. Getman leads Camp Verde with 13 hits for a loss.

According to Steege, the key to Friday’s match-up will be the ground game. If Camp Verde can establish that early, the air attack will open up.

“We have a decent passing game, but we don’t want to throw on every down. We have to establish the run,” Steege said.

The biggest key will be mistakes, or lack thereof. In last weeks outing, the offense turned the ball over twice inside their own 15. That set up two quick scores for River Valley.

“We can’t do what we do every Friday night, and that’s easy turnovers that allow our opponents for score,” Steege said. “River had 35 points, four of those TDs were on drives 15 yards or less. We can’t give Sedona the short field.”

The bottom line — Camp Verde is young and inexperienced. That has been proven each game. Now here’s the but. When these two teams get together, everyone steps up their game.

The Cowboys’ could play the role of the spoiler Friday night with a win. That would be a great confidence booster for next year.

On the same token, Sedona could put up another 48 points on the board to end this region rivalry in style.

Friday night will come down to a battle of pride. That’s something the football team at CVHS could use a little more of as the season winds down.

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