Camp Verde High football seems to be a mystery this season, even to head coach Jerome Rhoades.
While the Cowboys shined in their scrimmage against Scottsdale Prep, Rhoades isn’t sure about how good the Cowboys are because they aren’t able to practice against a scout team because they don’t have enough players.
The Cowboys open the season on Friday night when they host Chino Valley in the Bronze Boot Game at 7 p.m.
“Friday night’s going to tell us an awful lot, whether we’re ready or whether we’re breathing some kind of weird air up here in Camp Verde,” Rhoades said.
Third year starting quarterback Payton Sarkesian leads the way for the Cowboys. Last season he led the region in passing with 1,084 yards, 120.4 per game.
“Payton’s been doing really well,” Rhoades said. “It’s very difficult to get a look with our numbers being what they are in terms of scout defense, so we do a lot of our offense against air and it’s not that hard to look good against air, so we’ll see Friday night.”
Although the new offense doesn’t throw the ball downfield that much, Sarkesian said he likes it.
“It’s simple and complex at the same time, it just depends on where you’re playing on the field,” Sarkesian said. “But I think it’s gonna work really well cuz we’ve had a lot of offenses that are really confusing for kids and if you get your head around this one, then you pretty much got it and it can be a powerhouse offense.”
Junior running back Dominiq Bruno is the featured back for the Cowboys. Last year Bruno was 11th in the region in rushing and averaged 4.8 yards per carry.
“They’re making the right read, so they’re going to the day light but it’s just we’re not blocking anyone, the reality is ‘is that daylight going to be there?’” Rhoades said about the running backs. “He sees a hole and he goes, so he’s reading that part well, but I mean the hole may not be there when we start blocking people.”
Although the Cowboys are low on numbers, with about 26 players, they are looking to make it to the state tournament for the first time since 2011.
“We executed pretty well in the scrimmage but we have some things that we need to fix and hopefully we fixed ‘em,” Rhoades said.
Last year the Cowboys started 1-3 when former head coach Steve Darby was suspended before he ultimately resigned. After Rhoades became the interim head coach, the Cowboys finished the season 4-6.
“It’s a shock from last year but they’re getting use to it and they like it,” Bruno said. “He’s a good coach, he’s a great coach. He just teaches us everything we need to know.”
Sarkesian said Rhoades is one of his favorite coaches he’s ever had.
“I love the guy, he’s one of my favorite coaches that I’ve had in any sport,” Sarkesian said. “He’s a really good role model for me, as a person and I’m just really excited to work with him for my senior year.”
Darby is the Mingus Union freshman coach now.
Mohave Accelerated, who the Cowboys were set to play Oct. 6, had to cancel their football team this year due to low numbers giving Camp Verde a bye but only nine games.
Last year the Cowboys beat the Patriots 39-0.
“We lost one of those games that we won last year, so now out of the nine, we only beat two of those teams last year, so we need to come with our ‘A’ game every single week,” Rhoades said.
Playing only nine games doesn’t seem to hurt teams Rhoades said, with nine game teams making the playoffs all the time.
“It doesn’t really hurt the way I think people think it does,” Rhoades said. “You have one potential week of win points, so let’s say you win eight games, eight times 50 is 400 win points and then you divide by your ten and you go from there, it trickles down as far as your opponents’ wins and blah, blah, blah So what happens is you lose that potential for that 50 points but your divider’s nine now, as opposed to 10 and so it’s designed to not hurt you.”