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While all three recipients of the Division III, Section IV softball player of the year award were from the Verde Valley, only Camp Verde High School senior Paige Church can add more to her high school resume.

Paige Church, a senior at Camp Verde High School, fields throws to first base. Church was the second-best fielder in Division III, Section IV, and was one of three Verde Valley softball players to receive section player of the year honors.
“It was super surprising, especially to get it as a junior from a small school,” said Church, who, along with recent CVHS grad April Dodge and former Sedona Red Rock High School pitcher Emily Aitken, earned the award and was also named honorable mention all-Division. “I’ve played travel ball with Emily and April for a couple years and to be able to be compared with those girls is amazing because they have such great attitudes.

“There’s really no other way to describe it other than as an honor, definitely. All that extra work I put in the offseason paid off.”

For more than the past six years, that extra effort of Church, who currently holds a 3.65 grade-point average, has extended to not just the spring, or even late winter season preparations, but the whole year.

“It’s more than every inning,” she said. “Every single pitch, you have to be willing to do whatever it takes.

“That’s the thought process I want to get the girls in this year. No matter what happens, to feel like we did all we could to win the game. Not leave the field feeling like we lost just because we had a bad game.”

Church has been committed to softball at that level since she was playing softball for Camp Verde Middle School and for the Juggernauts, coached by her current Cowboys coach, Henry Smith.

For the full story, please see the Wednesday, July 29, issue of the Camp Verde Journal.

The wrestler who does not wrestle with family, or against, is becoming the outlier at the Sterrett Wrestling Complex.

Brody Townsend, 11, an incoming sixth-grader at Camp Verde Middle School, wrestles for the New Breed Wrestling Club at Weekend Wars. Townsend pinned eight of his 10 opponents to win his fifth straight war in the 60-pound weight class July 11.

“Many of our wrestlers are brothers or sons of former greats, to continue what some consider the breeding of studs,” said Mario Chagolla Sr., director of New Breed Wrestling and Weekend Wars. “Standing there all alone without mama, papa or anyone by your side to help you do battle is overwhelming.”

Whether it’s Chagolla’s 195-pound son Favian — a Camp Verde High School freshman who finished first in his weight class — the five Uhler brothers, all but one of whom won their weight class, or Camp Verde Elementary School students Dale and Hunter Zellner, wrestling families owned the majority of Weekend Wars wins July 11.

One notable exception: Brody Townsend, a sixth-grader at Camp Verde Middle School, who emerged to pin eight of his 10 opponents for his fifth win in a row in the 60-pound weight class.

“Brody’s attacks have become more aggressive and yet [have] finesse,” Chagolla said. “He still gets frustrated when someone takes him down but is now able to channel all his energy and focus on the task at hand.

“The result is a technically sound beast [who is] extremely dangerous, coming at you ... to bring down the thunder.”

After finishing third in his initial Weekend War on March 23, Townsend pinned eight of his 10 opponents July 11 at the Sterrett Wrestling Complex to take his fifth win in a row at 60 pounds July 11.

“I wrestled 63 [pounds] — that was the lowest class there was,” he said. “I plan on wrestling 68.”

Third-grader Racer Uhler, at 50 pounds, introduced Townsend to his first coach in Chagolla on March 23, when he finished third in his Weekend Wars debut. He hasn’t finished lower than runner-up since.

“I just try my best every tournament and work hard in practice," Townsend said. "I wanted to start coming and try it out.”

Townsend credits much of his success to new moves Chagolla and other Camp Verde wrestling coaches have taught him to use on opponents, such as the cradle.

For the full story and Weekend Wars results, please see the Wednesday, July 22, issue of the Camp Verde Journal.

Eleven returners from a Camp Verde High School softball team that finished the regular season ranked second in Division III can look to the ongoing Section IV Coach of the Year for guidance.

Henry Smith, father of Camp Verde High School senior ace Taya Smith, was named Coach of the Year in Division III, Section IV for a second straight season. Smith has not lost a sectional game in his two years as head coach.
“I got Coach of the Year? Cool,” was head coach Henry Smith’s first response when hearing he had been honored for the second straight season. “I’m beyond grateful. For me, the game is about the school and it’s about teaching the young ladies respect and hard work.”

Smith, coaching local girls 14 years old and under at an American Softball Association tournament Saturday, July 11, in Kingman, would not comment further on his second straight sectional honor in his two seasons leading the Cowboys varsity.

But after her third year working with Smith and fourth overall in the CVHS program, assistant coach Toni Harris refused to be so modest.

“He’s not just a great coach; he’s just an all-around great person,” she said. “That really comes through on the field. Even in the athletes’ life outside of softball, he has a really positive influence on that.”

Despite a loss to Morenci Junior/Senior High School in the first round of the state tournament, Smith has won 75 percent of his games as a head coach of the Cowboys.

“As coaches we’ve gotten together and talked about looking at some minor differences for next season, trying to see if [they’ll] help,” said Harris, whose daughter, Caitlin, made it to the 2014 state quarterfinals as a senior before losing to Payson High School. “Obviously, something is happening when we get to upper-level games. We’re not as successful as we should be.”

Still, the Cowboys have never lost a sectional game since Smith took over two years ago — a streak that will be tested next season against a realigned section schedule that includes Chinle, Hopi, Monument Valley, Round Valley, St. Johns and Tuba City high schools.

For the full story, please see the Wednesday, July 15, issue of the Camp Verde Journal.

Although a seven-on-seven football loss Thursday, June 25, reminded Camp Verde High School head coach Steve Darby of his program’s youth, winning a Big Man challenge over Flagstaff High School continued to bolster his confidence in it.

Camp Verde High School hosted a seven-on-seven football camp this summer: a two-hand touch football game with seven players on each team. Cowboy senior Kyle Little catches a pass and makes significant yardage.
“This is the best year I’ve had as far as [summer] success,” he said after wrapping up competitive seven-on-sevens with what he considered his junior varsity, which went 1-2 at Payson High School. “That’s OK.  We knew we were going to get beat, so we took a lot of our young guys and started them on varsity. We were trying to correct mistakes, so it was good for them.

“Some of these teams perform incredibly in seven-on-sevens. Then you get them in pads and they’re terrible. Our athletic ability’s a little better than the last two years.”

That has been revealed the most in June through the skill and speed of assistant coach Fernando Diaz’s linemen.

For the full story, please see the Wednesday, July 1, issue of the Camp Verde Journal.

Javier Perez, Camp Verde High School’s prolific shooting guard, prepared for his senior season by scoring more than 20 points in three games June 12 and 13 as the Cowboys have won six basketball games in Flagstaff, San Diego and Sedona.

Javier Perez, an incoming senior guard for Camp Verde High School, is a big reason why the Cowboys are undefeated through Tuesday, June 23, in their summer games against Sedona Red Rock High School. Perez has scored more than 20 points in three of the six summer wins for the Cowboys.
“Jarvis, he’s like LeBron,” head coach Dan Wall said. “He’ll score 40 and the team will score 46. He does a lot on the court; we run our offense through him.”

Depending on the results of the Cowboys’ final two basketball games Tuesday, June 23, at Sedona Red Rock High School, CVHS has a chance to go .500 and win half of its 16 summer games.

“Right now, the goal is not winning or losing games,” Wall said. “The goal is to be ready to win those games in December and January.”

If their two games with SRRHS or the first game of their round-robin tournament at Point Loma Nazarene University are any indication, the Cowboys are ready to win the games when they count.

For the full story, please see the Wednesday, June 24, issue of the Camp Verde Journal.

Close, but no win — yet.

Camp Verde High School has been hosting Big Man and seven-on-seven football games for the past two weeks. Seven-on-seven games such as this one June 17 against Chino Valley High School are two-hand touch, instead of tackle. The Cowboys would ultimately win that game but fall by a touchdown to Flagstaff High School.
Head coach Steve Darby and staff have finished runner-up with 20 Camp Verde High School football players the past two Wednesdays at home seven-on-seven and Big Man competitions.

In two weeks of games of skill and strength, the Cowboys have fallen short to Flagstaff by a touchdown and the Bradshaw Mountain High School varsity by a point, beating four other high schools at Sam Hammerstrom Field.

“We’re definitely ahead of where we were offensively and defensively the last two seasons,” Darby said. “I’m pretty disappointed in the lack of interest, but this core group is pretty solid and unique in the fact that they’re real coachable — they listen to what you say and put it into play.”

CVHS will also host Chino Valley, Coconino, Sedona Red Rock and Williams high schools in a final attempt Wednesday, June 24, to be the fastest and the strongest among high schools in north central Arizona. Games begin at 6 p.m.

Developing depth among players who will need to play both offense and defense, if not on special teams, has been the preoccupation for Darby this off-season.

“We’re working hard on developing backup roles for a lot of kids, if needed,” he said. “Bradshaw has a school four times our size and easily formed three teams with 125 kids — no one went both ways.

“I wish I had that problem. There’s just no way we could do that.”

For the full story, please see the Wednesday, June 24, issue of the Camp Verde Journal.

Although Danya Weir graduated from Camp Verde High School last month, she will represent the Cowboys one more time at the National High School Rodeo Finals in July after repeating her state title in breakaway roping Saturday, June 13.

Sharli Macdonald, who graduated from Camp Verde High School last month, gallops after a calf, practicing breakaway roping at the Weir Ranch. Owner Bob Weir, CVHS principal, operates the chute that turns the calves loose during roping practice two to three times a week. Weir’s daughter, Danya, successfully defended her breakaway state title Saturday, June 13, in Payson, and will advance to the national high school rodeo in July.
“We are so excited because she broke her femur and then still won,” said Weir’s mother, Daria, who accompanied her daughter, fellow outgoing senior Sharli Macdonald and incoming senior Laramie Mahan to the state finals in Payson. “We had her roping five, six calves at most before.”

Macdonald, who also ropes in team competition, finished sixth in the breakaway, while Mahan placed seventh in the state goat-tying competition.

For more photos and the full story, please see the Wednesday, June 17, issue of the Camp Verde Journal.

Bo Hickey, a 39-year-old Camp Verde resident, was the lone Verde Valley athlete May 9 to take two gold medals at the Special Olympics Summer Games in Phoenix.

Bo Hickey of Camp Verde recently won two gold medals in the Arizona Special Olympics. He had a 20-foot softball throw and ran the 50-meter dash in 10.65 seconds.
The 6-foot, 5-inch Hickey, who is currently diagnosed with mild cognitive delay, threw the softball nearly 20 feet and ran the 50-meter dash in 10.65 seconds to take first in those competitions in west Phoenix, just a short drive away from where Hickey graduated high school in 1994 after moving from Camp Verde.

“I did track and Special Olympics all through school, and then I got a regular job in Phoenix,” said Hickey, who competed in the pentathlon as a Camp Verde High School sophomore. “I dropped it after high school for a couple of years.”

For the next 15 years, Hickey worked odd jobs around Phoenix and Silver City, N.M., including at a golf course, a slaughterhouse, a supermarket and the base exchange at Luke Air Force Base, before returning to volunteer at Camp Verde United Christian School.

For more photos and the full story, please see the Wednesday, June 10, issue of the Camp Verde Journal.

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