Although a young side, Camp Verde High boys soccer is off to a near perfect start.
The No. 3 Cowboys (5-0-1, 3-0 Central) have started the season undefeated, outscoring opponents 21-4. After their three game win streak ended at No. 8 Show Low with a 1-1 draw, Camp Verde beat No. 14 Ash Fork/Seligman 1-0 and No. 13 Grand Canyon 5-0 on the road.
“We started off strong, we were 5-0-1, the tie that we had against Show Low could easily have been a win, we had plenty of opportunity,” head coach David Miller said. “We were finding it a challenge to finish, it seems to be something that we always struggle with a bit. We started off the season scoring a lot and now we sort of settle back into old habits of not scoring as many as we need to. We had plenty of opportunities, plenty of shots on goal, all those things, but we just got to put the biscuit in the basket.”
Camp Verde debuted at the top of the rankings despite having only two seniors with experience going into the season.
“We expect to be top five, that’s where we want to be,” Miller said. “It was kind of ambitious of us after graduating so many that we did but that’s a goal that we set always: is to be a top five team in the state. We’re excited that we’ve been able to be competitive with a lot of the good teams but we’re just really young. We’re playing above where we should be playing I think but we get a chance to look at it this weekend and see where we’re gonna be at.”
The draw against Show Low was the Cowboys second in row against the Cougars, as they tied 1-1 last year in the state tournament. Show Low advanced after winning the penalty shoot out though.
“Everybody talks about Chino Valley being our big rival and they are in within our conference but if you go back and look at the history of the program, we’ve played Show Low probably more than any team in the playoffs, we played Show Low competitively more than anybody, the games we play against Show Low always mean something, always have something and we always are relatively close,” Miller said. “They beat us in the playoffs last year, we beat them in the playoffs the year before, so it’s a good rivalry. I like their coach, he’s really good guy.”
The young Cowboys have rallied three times after finding themselves trailing so far this season to remain undefeated.
“Our season’s been really good,” midfielder Ethan Church said. “It’s had it’s ups and downs and there’s a lot of things that could make it go better but so far it’s been a really good season. It’s a really good group of boys, it’s just been going good.”
Against Grand Canyon, Joan Ruiz Alamos led the way with two goals and Gary Ortega, Brandon Cruz and Luis Aguirre each had one score.
“The last couple games we haven’t argued, at the beginning of the season we were arguing just cuz we weren’t like close and now that we’ve gotten closer that’s stopped and we’ve been working better,” midfielder Kelton O’Grady said. “We kinda play down to their level sometimes but we decided to pick it up finally, which is good for us because now we’re gonna to play at the elite level like we should be.”
O’Grady said he wasn’t surprised by the Cowboys’ start to the season.
“We’ve had talent since my freshman year and it just keeps getting more and more,” O’Grady said. “Kids come out, more and more talent People don’t think we’re gonna do good but we have been.”
This weekend the Cowboys travel to Tucson to take part in the Old Pueblo Soccer Classic. They’ll face No. 2 Blue Ridge and No. 4 Chino Valley on Friday.
Then on Saturday the Cowboys play No. 11 Snowflake, who they beat 3-2 in the season opener, and No. 19 Holbrook. It’s four games in two days and mostly during the day, but as a tournament it doesn’t count in the AIA’s power rankings.
“You can use the tournament to send a message or you can use the tournament to develop the team and we’ll focus on being competitive but we’ll be doing a lot of team development,” Miller said.
The Cowboys will bring 25 players, seven more than the varsity’s 18 and get the JV players some experience. The JV Cowboys only have six games scheduled this year, against four teams.
“The JV team is really talented and they just need the experience and so we’re going to get them as much experience as we can,” Miller said.
O’Grady said it will be good to see the top competition in Tucson.
“I don’t know what to expect, we’re playing a lot of good teams,” Church said. “I just hope for the best really.”
Next Tuesday the Cowboys play what Miller called a “critical” game at No. 1 Phoenix Country Day. Their next home game is Oct. 13 against Leading Edge Academy Gilbert.
“It’s great to start off fast, but we need to make sure we don’t experience any cranial swelling and we stay focused and improving day to day,” Miller said.