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Steve Darby, Camp Verde High School head football coach, is looking forward to returning home for the start of Division V, Section III play Friday, Oct. 2, at 7 p.m. against Chino Valley High School.

Coming off Homecoming, the Cowboys of Camp Verde High School got back to the practice field to prepare for Monument Valley High School — their final opponent prior to the start of sectional play. Sophomore Ryan Loza carries the ball and makes his way to the goal, as his team blocks for him. Loza, who had six catches for 154 yards to help win Homecoming on Sept. 18, was held to just two yards on offense as CVHS fell at Monument Valley, 37-6.
Going 1-4 in the Cowboys’ first five games can have that kind of effect.

“We just need to execute our plays better and protect the ball,” Darby said after eight turnovers led to a 37-6 loss Friday, Sept. 25, at Monument Valley High School. “You can’t turn the ball over that much and expect to win against anyone.”

Certainly not as athletic and well-coached a team as Monument Valley, one of just five undefeated teams in Division V, who averaged over 10 yards per play on offense against CVHS. Their previous encounter was a last-second, seven-on-seven semifinal win by the Cowboys, knocking them out of a tournament championship over the summer.

Senior Trevor Heyer had 62 yards rushing and a touchdown on the ground late in the fourth quarter, but it merely averted the shutout, as by then MVHS had already put 30 unanswered points on the scoreboard.

“Monument Valley was more physical than us,” Darby said. “They beat us at the line all night and limited us on what we could do offensively.”

Running back Jaysen Leonard, 10 yards short of the section lead in rushing, continued to do his part, carrying the ball 11 times for 68 yards while also collecting 53 receiving yards.

Fellow senior Dakota Brueland was the leading receiver on the night for CVHS with two catches totaling 60 yards, as sophomore slotback Ryan Loza was virtually shut out offensively.

Most of the 68 other Cowboys net yards on the ground, however, were gained scrambling by sophomore quarterback Payton Sarkesian, who also lost two fumbles.

For the full story and standings, please see the Wednesday, Sept. 30, issue of the Camp Verde Journal.

Junior Luis Valdez continues to be the bright star for Camp Verde High School cross-country as the teams host the Camp Verde Invitational beginning at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 26.

Mike O’ Callaghan, left, head coach of the Camp Verde High School boys and girls cross-country teams, helps sophomore Ruby McFarland warm up for practice. Both teams will host 11 other schools Saturday, Sept. 26, at the Camp Verde Invitational beginning at 8:30 a.m.
The Cowboys will host 11 other teams, including cross-Verde Valley rival Sedona Red Rock High School and lifetime members Alhambra and Apache Junction high schools, at the invitational.

“They’re the two teams that have come every year,” said Mike O’Callaghan, head coach of the Cowboys cross-country teams. “Sedona, it will be their first time here. Coconino’s taking their top seven kids out to California, but the rest are coming here.

“We’re such a young team that we’re avoiding Flagstaff this year, but we’ve got a few meets where we know we’re going to have really tough competition.”

O’Callaghan starts the Camp Verde Invitational course at Sam Hammerstrom Field and runs a 5K up CV Hill across Apache Trail from the back of the CVHS campus.

“Why wouldn’t I?” O’Callaghan said. “It’s not going to change.

“Personally, I am not a golf course-type guy. I’ve always tried to make it from the school. If it’s cross-country, it’s cross-country where we’re at.”

Arizona State University, Anthem and Greyhills preparatory academies also join Coconino, St. Mary’s Catholic, Valley Christian, Wickenburg and Flagstaff Basis high schools at the invitational.

If only Camp Verde High School had saved a touchdown or two Friday, Sept. 18, for its first three games.

Sophomore Ryan Loza and the Camp Verde High School football team dominated Piñon High School, 50-0, in the Cowboys’ homecoming matchup Friday, Sept. 18. Loza, who caught six passes for 154 yards on the night, scored the first touchdown on a 22-yard reception from sophomore Payton Sarkesian.

The Cowboys scored more points in the first half of homecoming against Piñon High School  than their total margin of defeat in their previous three games, shutting out the Eagles for their first win, 50-0.

“We knew a win was just a matter of time,” said Steve Darby, CVHS head football coach. “We are both a young and inexperienced team; however, we have seen improvement each week.”

Running back Jaysen Leonard had 11 carries for 127 yards and three touchdowns, although fellow senior Dakota Brueland had the longest rush of the night for 50 yards and a score after two other touchdowns were called back due to penalties.

Their contributions propelled the Cowboys to a 43-0 lead by the 4:47 mark of the second quarter, triggering a running clock on the scoreboard for the rest of the game, per Arizona Interscholastic Association bylaws.

“We had a mismatch covering Ryan Loza all night and we were able to take advantage of it,” Darby said of his sophomore slotback, who hauled in a 22-yard touchdown for the game’s first score, one of six catches for 154 yards. “Ryan rarely drops a pass and is hard to bring down once he makes a catch.”

After a Piñon fumble early in the second quarter, senior Trevor Heyer’s 11-yard touchdown reception with 11 minutes to play put the Cowboys up, 24-0.

It was all delivered from sophomore quarterback Payton Sarkesian, who had his most efficient passing night at CVHS with three touchdowns and just two incompletions in 15 attempts for 261 yards.

“Payton is playing with a great deal of confidence,” Darby said. “He has learned from past mistakes and is making good decisions.”

The night’s final, unexpected, scoring contribution came from senior transfer Jesse Etietinne, who had a pick-six for 30 yards as part of a 25-point second quarter.

For the full story, standings and more photos, please see the Wednesday, Sept. 23, issue of the Camp Verde Journal.

Homecoming on Friday, Sept. 18, may be just what the doctor ordered for Camp Verde High School football.

Senior Jaysen Leonard catches the ball during a Camp Verde High School practice, running toward the end zone. The Cowboys are gearing up for their Homecoming game next week.
A first win this fall continues to elude the Cowboys after a 44-26 defeat at Globe High School dropped them to 0-3 on Friday, Sept. 11.

“The team, as a whole, played well, given our challenges,” said Steve Darby, CVHS head football coach. “With almost every player going both ways, we just ran out of gas.”

Eleven Cowboys could not make the trip due to academic ineligibility. That number did not include the starting kicker for CVHS, senior Kyle Little, who along with two other players was dismissed for team rules violations, according to Darby.

With only freshman Dominic Bruno in reserve, sophomore punter Kevin Oothoudt had to pull double duty as kicker for the Cowboys — in addition to his linebacking duties on defense.

To his credit, he had a 42-yard punt, converted two extra points and “kicked well on kickoffs,” Darby said. The Cowboys fell victim to a bad snap and a failed two-point conversion attempt.

But with just three punt attempts, Oothoudt may have been the only CVHS player with anything left in the tank, even with the Cowboys coming off a bye week.

For the full story, standings and more photos, please see the Wednesday, Sept. 16, issue of the Camp Verde Journal.

While Camp Verde High School’s natural athletes kept its varsity volleyball team in all three of its season-opening games at Sedona Red Rock High School, mistakes were the Cowboys’ ultimate undoing as they fell in three straight,
25-14, 25-13 and 25-18.

Senior Allee Drake skies for Camp Verde High School over the outstretched hands of two Sedona Red Rock High School defenders during the Cowboys’ 3-0 loss Thursday, Sept. 3, at the Scorpions.
“We missed five serves the last game,” said second-year CVHS head coach Dan Gagnon. “That’s not improving from game to game; it’s getting worse.”

Junior middle hitter Tiauna Day kept the score within two points the final game with an unreturnable finesse kill.

Senior Dusty Dowdle’s two kills closed the gap further within a point on two separate occasions.

She would even tie the game, 8-8, on a strong block at the net of an over-the-shoulder tap by SRRHS senior Annie Parrella.

A net serve gave the ball, and the lead, right back to the Scorpions. Net serves would keep the Cowboys from drawing any closer than a three-point margin the rest of the way.

Net serves also topped a long list of unforced errors to be focused on by a coach who, with the help of just two volunteer assistants, has no choice but to divide his attention between his varsity and JV teams.

It was a much better effort than the Cowboys’ opening scrimmage Aug. 27 at Scottsdale Preparatory Academy, in which “we hadn’t been organized well enough, long enough to really do well at all,” Gagnon said. “Which is fine; that’s to be expected.”

Despite the support of junior Shelby Ritzenthaler, with just sophomore Hannah Collins the only other varsity reserve available off the bench, the four CVHS starting seniors did what could be expected of experienced athletes playing two other sports with little time to focus on preseason preparation.

For the full story and season schedule, please see the Wednesday, Sept. 9, issue of the Camp Verde Journal.

If all high school soccer seasons could end as they begin, William “Pat” Allen would be a happy head girls soccer coach.

The Camp Verde High School varsity girls soccer team practices in preparation for a weekend tournament. Freshman Irlanda Lopez, left, kicks the ball out of senior Paige Church’s reach.
The Camp Verde High School girls soccer head coach saw it happen last fall, when the Cowboys ended the season the same way it began — with a 5-1 loss to Blue Ridge High School, the second time in the Division V state quarterfinals.

Since they end their regular season at home against Holbrook High School, a 10-0 win Wednesday, Sept. 2, at the Roadrunners bodes well.

“They pretty much controlled the entire game,” he said. “We put the starters out there half of the second half just playing a good game of keep-away: Working the ball around, looking for the open player [and] making clear shots on goal, not just making a shot because you can.

“The girls understand it doesn’t do any good to blow this kind of team out: They’ve been struggling for a few years.”

Head boys coach Dave Miller has a more positive, longer-range outlook.

“All my boys have the potential to be able to play up and score a goal,” he said. “Last year, we were just young, and it boiled down to experience and size. Next year, I return everybody.

“I’m one of those coaches who are extremely optimistic: I think we have the talent to win it all.”

Junior David Perez, left, battles with freshman Ephraim Navarro over control of the ball during practice. Despite a young team, head coach Dave Miller believes he has the talent to win it all.

For the full story, please see the Wednesday, Sept. 9, issue of the Camp Verde Journal.

While most of the rest of Arizona’s high school football teams prepare to play their second game, Camp Verde High School went into its bye week having two sizable goals after its second straight loss, 25-12, to Holbrook High School.

Friday night, Aug. 29, Camp Verde High School lined up head-to-head on the gridiron with Holbrook High School in the Cowboys' opening home game of the season. Sophomore quarterback Payton Sarkesian, No. 8,  makes sure his offense is set before the snap.
“Learn how to block and tackle,” said a frustrated Steve Darby, head coach of the Cowboys, after their home opener. “If you do that, you win games. Right now, we don’t do that very well.”

Junior lineman Reyes Herrera’s efforts couldn’t stem four sacks of dual quarterbacks Trevor Heyer and Payton Sarkesian. In fact, they were overwhelmed by a reinjured Achilles tendon suffered by sophomore center Miguel Salas and senior tackle Jordan May’s fourth-quarter ejection for throwing a punch.

“Mikey injured his Achilles in practice [Aug. 26],” Darby said. “It doesn’t sound like it’s detached, so hopefully … in two weeks, he’s back.”

May — playing just his second game for CVHS since transferring from Mingus Union High School — won’t have that opportunity. Per Arizona Interscholastic Association bylaws, he must also sit out the Cowboys’ next attempt to get their first win of the season Friday, Sept. 11, at Globe High School.

“We just all need to be on the same page,” Darby said. “Right now, one lineman doesn’t cut it. We need five.”

For the full story and standings, please see the Wednesday, Sept. 2, issue of the Camp Verde Journal.

In his first high school contact game, Camp Verde High School senior Jaysen Leonard ran for two touchdowns but the Cowboys couldn’t stop Sedona Red Rock High School from scoring the go-ahead touchdown with 1:16 to play to defeat the Cowboys, 20-13.

Sophomore quarterback Payton Sarkesian scrambles to elude the rush of Sedona Red Rock High School senior Tim Hall and junior Danny Avelar, from right, during Camp Verde High School’s 20-13 opening road loss Friday, Aug. 21. Sarkesian kept the ball eight times, gaining 72 yards on the ground in the loss.
Leonard carried the ball nine times for 96 yards and two touchdowns — the second his longest run of the night, which helped put CVHS ahead, 13-12, with 4:41 to play after he slipped around left end 54 yards down the sidelines.

“I felt like I was on top of the world,” he said after the Cowboys’ opener Friday, Aug. 21, at SRRHS. “It felt good getting in the end zone.”

Leonard, who had previously only played flag football, was also the leading receiver on the night for the Cowboys with 58 yards on four catches.

He was held back, however, from playing both ways and joining his teammates on defense due to a bruised hip, head coach Steve Darby said.

“Wait [un]til he gets full strength,” he said. “For having never played football before, he’s doing a great job, and as long as he stays healthy, he’ll get better.”

Leonard’s first touchdown came on a similar play with 48 seconds to go in the first quarter. Senior kicker Kyle Little’s extra point gave CVHS its first lead, 7-6.

But the very next drive, 2:40 later, senior Justice Keane’s four-yard run got the Scorpions the lead back, 12-7.

The two teams failed to score for virtually the next 30 minutes of a back-and-forth night in which both units struggled with penalties — and fellow senior Trevor Heyer moved back to his old wide receiver position after throwing two first-quarter interceptions as starting quarterback.

For the full story and sectional standings, please see the Wednesday, Aug. 26, issue of the Camp Verde Journal.

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