CAMP VERDE - The boys' soccer team at Camp Verde has been involved in close games all season, Thursday night they were on the winning side of the first time this season beating Phoenix Country Day 1-0. The Cowboys took the lead ten minutes into the second half when the PCD keeper came out to the edge of his box, to corral a loose ball. Cowboy midfielder Jose Guzman was able to get there first and poke the ball towards the goal mouth. From there it was a race between Nathan Schultz and a PCD defender. Schultz was victorious, pounding the ball into the back of the net to put the Cowboys up for good.
At the time the Cowboys scored the first goal, they were down a man as earlier in the first half, a brief scuffle had broken out between Camp Verde midfielder Nathan Pineda, and a PCD player. Pineda was given a red card and ejected from the game. Playing down a man, forced the Cowboys to switch up their formation, leaving Schultz up top all by himself.
"If there is one player that can play up top all by himself and still put pressure on the other team, it's him," Miller said. "He's such a physical specimen, he's a great player to have out there in that situation."
With Pineda ejected from the game, it allowed some players on the Camp Verde bench a chance to prove themselves. One of those players was freshman Brandon Cruz. Cruz was the next on the list to handle the middle, and even though he is a little undersized he brings a lot to the table for the Cowboys.
"He has been playing with us in the summer since he was in 4th grade, and we have been looking forward to having him on varsity," Miller said. "He may be a little undersized, but he brings a lot to the table with his skills and his knowledge of the game."
Cruz was joined in the middle by a trio of players. The Cowboys have started to fill their stopper role by committee with a mixture of Joe Jones, Bo Bullard, and Darren Franklin. The stopper by committee seemed to work for the Cowboys as they kept PCD off the scoreboard. The rest of the defense contributed to the shutout as well, as Miller got another great performance from his defense.
"Our sweeper David Perez just controls everything back there, and 'our rock' Sam Maynard just never comes out and it always solid," Miller said. "Preston Maynard continues to improve as well, he's only a sophomore too, and when he gets scored on he just puts it in his memory bank and won't get scored on that way again."
Preston came through for the Cowboys throughout the game. One save came late in the first half, when he made a save on a PCD through ball attempt. He came up big late in the second half as well with five minutes left on the clock. PCD had a clear shot on net that Maynard was able to catch and thwart an attempt to tie the game.
For the next two weeks, the Cowboys will be down at least two starters, as forward Jon Castillo is still recovering from an injury in the first game of the season. Also Joe Jones will be out with a back related injury. But Miller is optimistic that his bench will show up to play.
"We have plenty of boys who are hungry for an opportunity to get some minutes on the field," Miller said.
After taking on AZ College Prep on Saturday the Cowboys will play in a tournament at Old Pueblo in Tucson the first weekend of October.
-- Follow Greg Macafee on Twitter @greg_macafee