CHINO VALLEY – Chino Valley’s boys’ soccer team has dominated its county rivalry with Camp Verde for the past seven years. And despite some fairly high stakes in their match on Tuesday, the result was no different.
In a Central region battle pitting two Top 5 squads in the 2A ranks Oct. 9, No. 3 Chino Valley cruised to a 4-1 victory over No. 4 Camp Verde at the Cougars’ damp and muddy varsity field. Over the past three years versus Camp Verde, Chino Valley owns a 9-0 record.
Senior midfielder Jordan Sanchez scored two goals within a minute of each other in the first half, forward Angel Sanchez tallied a goal and an assist, Irving Vedolla booted in a goal and forward Willie Chinchilla added an assist to pace Chino Valley’s speedy attack.
“Everyone had a big part in every goal [Tuesday],” Sanchez said. “I feel like we always beat them [Camp Verde], but they’re a tough team. They play very physical, and they’re well-conditioned. We might see them in the [state] playoffs and it’ll be a different team.”
With the victory, Chino Valley improved its record in power-point matches to 8-1-0 overall and 5-1-0 in region play. The youthful Cowboys lost their first power-point game, dropping to 5-1-1 and 3-1-0.
“We’re above our expectation right now, just because we’ve experienced some success,” said longtime Camp Verde coach David Miller, who starts three freshmen, two sophomores, four juniors and two seniors. “Our goal the entire year was to make the playoffs as a Top 8 team.”
Chino Valley coach Todd Carey, whose team has struggled with injuries and illnesses, among other things, this season, said he was finally able to play his preferred starting lineup on Tuesday.
“It’s nice to get some good competition out here so that we can really kind of see how we look,” Carey said. “We haven’t had very many hard games. We’re now fully healthy; we have our formation set up. We moved the ball around really well and we possessed it really well. If we play good and we play solid, we can beat anybody.”
The Cougars’ stout defense managed a shutout until the 76th minute, when Brandon Ruiz pulled the visitors to within two, 3-1, after drilling a goal into the top shelf on an assist from Ethan Church.
“We started really cold, and we’re just going to have to do better next time we play them,” Camp Verde co-captain Manuel Interiano said. “We’re a pretty young team, but we’re pretty talented. When we work together, we can hang in there with the good teams. We can have a really good run.”
Although the Cougars didn’t get the shutout, only a few minutes later and with regulation winding down, Vedolla put the match out of reach when he scored on a deflection in the box off a corner kick.
“Off the bat, our defense did really well, and really held it back there,” Chino Valley senior defender Johnny Beltran-Gomez said. “We had a couple balls that went over our heads. But at the end, we got it back and it wasn’t a big deal.”
Chino Valley has three regular-season matches remaining, and the team is on the outside looking in as far as a region title is concerned. The two-time defending Central region champion Cougars visit No. 9 Page on Friday before returning home for their final two matches, Oct. 13 versus No. 5 Willcox and Oct. 15 vs. No. 10 Payson.
On Sept. 25 in Phoenix, the Cougars lost 2-1 to undefeated Central region leader, defending 2A state champion and No. 1-ranked Phoenix Country Day (8-0-0, 5-0-0), which has won 13 consecutive matches dating back to last season. Country Day has four matches left before the state tournament, including three in region, and they are all at home. The Eagles’ toughest games will be against Camp Verde and No. 6 Show Low.
“We really needed this game [vs. Camp Verde] after that loss to Phoenix Country Day, just to raise our momentum, and we need to keep it going,” Sanchez said. “State this year is not going to be easy.”
Chino Valley hits the road to face Page for another important region clash (6-2 overall, 5-1 Central region) at 4:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 12.
Camp Verde plays host to unranked region opponent Leading Edge Academy of Gilbert (0-6-1) at noon Saturday, Oct. 13.
Doug Cook is a reporter for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Twitter at @dougout_dc. Email him at email@example.com or call 928-445-3333, ext. 2039.