Tue, Oct. 15

Camp Verde downs Mingus 41-31

Camp Verde's David Stanley leaps and hoists his helmet in celebration after Camp Verde's 41-31 win over Mingus Union High School Friday night. VVN/Sean Morris

Camp Verde's David Stanley leaps and hoists his helmet in celebration after Camp Verde's 41-31 win over Mingus Union High School Friday night. VVN/Sean Morris

CAMP VERDE-For the first time ever, the Camp Verde Cowboys football team beat the Mingus Marauders Friday night on Sam Hammerstrom Field, 41-31.

It was the biggest crowd ever for a Camp Verde football game. The stage was set for something special, and the Cowboys delivered in all phases of the game.

Camp Verde got out to a fast start and went up 14-0.

For the first score of the game, QB Deshon Tripp found Chris Zellner on a dump-off pass that went for 50 yards. Tripp was in trouble from the Mingus pass rush, but he improvised and Zellner did the rest.

Mingus didn't do much on their first two drives, and the Cowboys got the ball back on a fumble. Kody Rayburn scored the second touchdown of the game with a long run up the middle.

Mingus let the opposition get an early lead for the second game in a row, but they weren't going away that easy.

Marauders Carlos Abrigo and Josh Longfellow went to work. They got tough yards, and they found some easy ones too. Abrigo found the end zone to bring the game to 14-6, but Cowboy Tyler Ward blocked the extra point.

Mingus got the ball back when a botched handoff between Tripp and Zellner resulted in a fumble.

Already close to the end zone, Mingus went into a wildcat-type formation with direct snaps to Abrigo. He scored a touchdown and two-point conversion in that set.

The first quarter ended 14-14, anybody's game.

The next score came off the boot of Andrew Hickey who kicked about a 30-yard field goal to give Mingus the lead 17-14.

Momentum had shifted to the Marauders favor, but in a high school football rivalry game, momentum is capricious.

On the next drive, Tripp called his own number and knifed his way through the heart of the Mingus defense, then bounced outside and found the open field for a huge pickup. He was injured on the play. It was the same injury he's been dealing with for a while. He was pulled from the game and Kyle Lobaugh took over under center from about the 25-yard line.

The drive stalled and Mingus got the ball back, but their drive stalled too, and Camp Verde forced a turnover. LB Jake Spleiss intercepted a pass thrown by Abrigo.

Tripp came back into the game with a hitch in his giddy-up. He only missed a few plays, but coming back into the game showed his determination and how much Camp Verde wanted the win. They would host a playoff game in the first round no matter what the outcome of the Mingus game, so CV head coach Luke Steege could have sat Tripp to save him for the playoffs, but this game meant more.

Even though Tripp had a little hobble, he still made plays with his feet and he found Gavin Collins on a post route for a touchdown. Collins had a man on him, but he used his body to shield the defender and come up with the score.

Camp Verde had another chance to score right before halftime. They were inside the 5-yard-line but time ran out a second before they could get the snap off.

Down 21-17 to start the second half, Mingus constructed a methodical drive and scored on a Longfellow run up the middle to go up 24-21. It was exactly what they needed to set the tone for the second half, but Camp Verde had different plans.

The Cowboys showed poise on the next drive. They converted third downs and ran the ball hard, but the drive stalled inside the 10-yard-line. On a fourth and three, Tripp rolled out to his left to make a pass, but decided to run instead and he picked up the first down.

A false start took the Cowboys back five yards, but it was kind of serendipitous considering the play that came after. Tripp found TE Jake Spleiss on a crossing pattern for a touchdown. The Cowboys went up 28-24 and they never lost the lead.

Mingus had the ball when the third quarter ended, and they were moving it, but at the start of the fourth quarter Mingus QB Luke Simmons fumbled. Zellner forced it and Gavin Collins recovered it.

At this point Steege said to one of his assistants, "This is where we need a nice, long drive," but Rayburn thought different. He torched the Marauders on a sweep to the right for a 70-yard touchdown that put the Cowboys in the driver seat, 35-24 with 9:38 left in the game.

The Cowboys ran that play earlier and holding was called, but this time no yellow flags and the stadium erupted. They could taste victory.

Mingus came out on their next drive with Abrigo taking direct snaps again. It didn't work and Cowboy defenders got a lot of penetration. Simmons was put back under center, but the Marauders didn't get anything going and Gavin Collins intercepted a pass.

Rayburn scored again on a long run up the middle.

Mingus had little time left and a big deficit to overcome. In desperation they had to throw to stay alive.

Simmons completed a lot of passes against a conservative Cowboys defense, and Longfellow scored again to bring the game to 41-31, but that's where it stayed.

An onside kick almost worked, but Zellner came up with the football. Gavin Collins got crushed on the play, but he bounced up and appeared unaffected.

The Cowboys ran clock and ended the game. With the final seconds ticking off the clock, jubilation erupted on the home team side of the stadium.

It was a great moment for the town of Camp Verde.

"I don't feel like it's a rivalry between me and Mingus, but being able to have that bragging right feels great. Our guys worked their butts off tonight and I'm so proud. It feels amazing. It was a great game," said Spleiss. "I'm not satisfied yet though. We have to come ready and we have to come to win. Now if we lose we're done. We gotta come to play."

Spleiss had his best game of the season, racking up tackles, an interception, a sack, a fumble recovery, and a touchdown reception.

Then again, a lot of Cowboys had their best game of the season against Mingus. Deshon Tripp certainly had his best game throwing the ball, with three touchdown passes and plenty of short, precise throws.

"This is the best thing we've ever done. We've been begging for this game for eight years now, and we finally got it. We came out ready to play and I knew we were going to get it," Tripp said with a tear in his eye after the game. "My receivers tore it up tonight--flat out. They kept us going the whole game."

Rayburn came up with a nice catch, but his mark on the game was on the ground. He's having a tremendous season and already past the 1,000 yard mark a few weeks ago.

"The line did a tremendous job tonight," said Rayburn. "It feels amazing to beat Mingus. We're the first Camp Verde team to beat Scottsdale Christian, Payson, and Mingus. I think we're going all the way."

It was the best possible scenario for the Cowboys. They got the win they wanted and nobody got seriously hurt. Steege beamed as he congratulated his players.

"We made fewer mistakes than they did, that's what it comes down to. The fumble by Simmons followed by the 70-yard run by Rayburn really changed the flow of the second half," said Steege. "We played solid football against a much bigger school and we didn't turn the ball over in the second half."

It was said before the game that Mingus needed to win or they would be eliminated from division IV playoff contention (come to find out they still made it). Camp Verde could have lost and still made the division V playoffs, but the game still meant more to the Cowboys.

"They were fired up, this game was pretty important to our boys. We were up for it all week. We played about 14 guys in the game, and they just wanted it. You could see it on them-as the game wore on, we didn't get tired. I was worried about that, but we just seemed to continue on," said Steege. "It was definitely a great game for Spleiss, Deshon, Kody Rayburn, our offensive line--I'm just so pleased that we played well and we had very few penalties. Good sportsmanship on both sides too, and I'm very happy about that."

Good high school football players tend to come in waves. This year, Camp Verde is riding a wave of great senior leaders who were honored at halftime.

"We've done a lot of firsts this year, and it's just a testament to the seniors we have on the team this year. They have worked so hard to get here, and they weren't going to be denied tonight," said Steege.

First Round of the playoffs

Next for the Cowboys: Phoenix Christian, 7 p.m. on Sam Hammerstrom Field, Nov. 4.

Next for the Marauders: Show Low, 7 p.m. in Show Low, Nov. 4
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