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Jesus Zorrilla, head coach of the Camp Verde recreational men’s basketball team Suddenlink, believes in family overcoming old team bonds for the Yavapai-Apache Nation league championship Wednesday, July 8.

Bruce Jurecki, of Cottonwood Auto Sales, drives towards the basket in a game against Team Hostile D. The Yavapai-Apache Nation’s men’s basketball league is coming to a close, with the championship to be played Wednesday, July 8.
“We can hang with any of these teams and definitely do some damage,” said Zorrilla, who, at 6 feet, 2 inches tall, is Suddenlink’s biggest man. “Last year, a couple of games were buzzer-beaters. It burns, you know?”

Zorrilla, along with brother Francisco and nephew Javier Perez, leads fifth-place Suddenlink in scoring as they open their postseason against higher-seed Legacy at 6 p.m. Monday, July 6.

Perez’s Camp Verde High School teammates Reyes and Thomas Herrera play for Legacy, which finished fourth out of 10 teams in the two-month regular season.

“Last year, we got fourth [place], but each year we seem to get a little better,” Zorrilla said. “Our conditioning is better this year. We’re more together; we’re starting to find each other more.”

Zorrilla, who plays with just seven other players not only in games but twice a week in full-court, four-on-four scrimmages, hopes it doesn’t come to that against Cottonwood Auto Body, the top team in the league.

Regardless of the outcome of their make-up game Monday, June 29, if they can both make it through their quarterfinal games Monday, July 6, the teams will face off in the semifinals.

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

Sean Williams just keeps winning.

Cottonwood Clippers swimmers finish a morning practice after returning from the Kingman Invitational meet on June 27. The Clippers are gearing up for their annual fundraiser, the Mile Swim, which will start Monday, July 6.
The Mingus Union High School incoming senior took home his third high-points trophy in two weeks Saturday,
June 27, to top 24 Cottonwood Clippers swimmers at the Kingman Invitational.

Williams, 17, scored 36 points to lead all 15- to 18-year-old boys from five swimming teams, while MUHS sophomore Gunner Tillemans scored 27 points to take second among the 13- and 14-year-olds.

Williams finished first in four events and led a mixed 200-yard freestyle relay team that also included fellow 17-year-old Lucas Smith, 16-year-old Ashlyn Wingfield and Skylar Mohr, 15.

Along with fellow senior Caleb Furey, Williams also helps coach 11-year-old Clippers like Dorian Boyd, who won the 50-yard butterfly and freestyle in 42.51 and 35.12 seconds, respectively.

“But I’m really good at the 50-yard breaststroke and I got fourth,” she said. “I think that’s what brought me down. My dive was good, but my streamline was too long. I had an arch underwater.”

Boyd also was runner-up in the 200-yard individual medley on her way to third overall in her age group.

“Last year, I took second,” she said. “So I was a little upset with myself. Coach Sean, Coach Caleb help give me my drive.”

As does 12-year-old Zoey Arwine, whose prowess in the 50-yard butterfly did not travel to Kingman. Lyla Thompson, Izzy Hoffman and Ashley Doerksen were all top-10 age group finishers in her place.

“I definitely look up to Zoey in the butterfly,” Boyd said. “She’s one of the main reasons I want to work on it more.”

The next-highest points scorer for the Clippers was Joseph Calhoon, 13, who finished sixth in his age group. He also led another mixed 200-yard freestyle relay team that also included Doerksen, Tillemans and Mohr’s 13-year-old sister, Emily.

In all, 11 Clippers would finish among the top 10 high-points finishers against swimmers from Bullhead City, Lake Havasu City and Needles, Calif., going into their primary fundraiser beginning Monday, July 6, at the Cottonwood Outdoor Pool — the Mile Swim.

For the full story, please see the Wednesday, July 1, issue of the Cottonwood Journal Extra.

Two Riverfront Park softball marathons yielded three drained but happy winners Thursday and Monday, June 25 and 29.

Red Rock Dental celebrates its women’s B-League title after a victory over the Kare Bears, Thursday,  June 25. Top row, from left: head coach Autumn Naegle, assistant coach Marty White, Quin Thompson, Vickie Gann, Danielle White and Meagan Hughes; bottom row, from left: Lora Rogers, Taylor Mahlman, Mindy Zarlingo, Juliana Sarevo and Lisa Drake.
“It was a long day at work,” quipped Autumn Naegel, head coach of Red Rock Dental, which had to beat the Kare Bears back-to-back to win the Cottonwood Parks and Recreation department’s B League for women. “By the end of the night, we had played four straight hours of softball. We were exhausted.”

Particularly pitcher Meagan Hughes, wife of the sponsor’s owner, who hurled all 14 innings of Red Rock’s 16-10 and 17-7 wins at Riverfront Park. The temperature at the start of the first game, which Red Rock had just 10 players healthy for, was 108 degrees, Naegle said.

“We had no substitutes to go to,” she said. “She was definitely the player of the games.

“We had four people injured, so all the players couldn’t run. Those who were not injured were all running double time for the injured people.”

The Baby Mamas clawed back in similar fashion to win the women’s A League. After their second loss of the season, both to the Pain Crushers, sent them to the consolation bracket, head coach Lizbeth Fullbright’s team crushed back June 25 with 8-1 and 14-4 victories.

In terms of degree of difficulty, however, the most stunning comeback came in the men’s league playoffs Monday, June 29. After suffering just their second loss of the season in the first round, falling to HDH 1, co-sponsored by Angies House, 18-6, Mike’s 12-Pack rallied from a another 12-run deficit in the seventh inning to beat Diablo, 20-19.

“We finished with a walk-off grand slam after time expired,” head coach Tarrin Walz said. “Total team effort. No one gave up and everyone kept playing hard.”

Walz’s team will play HDH 1 a fifth time this summer for the championship and rubber match of the season series. The game will begin at 7:15 p.m. on Softball Field 1 at Riverfront Park.

For the full story and men's and women's league scores, please see the Wednesday, July 1, issue of the Cottonwood Journal Extra.

In the span of a year, another kind of wildfire in the Verde Valley swept through its sports landscape.

George Werner
At this time last summer, two Camp Verde athletes on the cusp of their final years of their high school careers were preparing to make history for two highly successful programs — girls basketball and wrestling.

In Cottonwood, Mingus Union High School was undergoing a transition to new coaching leadership in boys basketball, boys tennis and both swimming teams.

Sedona, too, was transitioning to new head coaches in charge of its high school football and both basketball programs. At the same time, head coach Manny Arias had just introduced the first professional sports team, the Sedona FC Strikers.

The spirit of 1776 — feelings of excitement, change and progress — was definitely in the air.

For the full column, please see the Wednesday, July 1, issues of the Camp Verde Journal and Cottonwood Journal Extra.

Utilityman Dave DeWitt knocked in son Chad on a walk-off triple Monday, June 22, as Mike’s 12-Pack entered the Cottonwood men’s softball league playoffs with its 16th win, 19-18.

Tarrin Walz, head coach and third baseman for Mike’s 12-Pack, gets a solid hit in the Cottonwood Recreation Center men’s softball regular season finale at Riverfront Park. Mike’s would beat HDH 1, co-sponsored by Angies House, for its 16th win and top seed in the three-day men’s league playoffs, which begin June 24.
Not bad for a bunch of old guys.

“We’ve got all kinds of old people on the team,” said head coach Tarrin Walz, 46, after the second win of the season over second-place HDH 1, co-sponsored by Angies House. “Three weeks ago, we run-ruled those young guys [who] practice six days a week and play 350 games a year, supposedly.”

As the top seed in the seven-team men’s softball league, presented by Cottonwood’s Parks and Recreation department, Walz and his 12-pack of players will enjoy a bye to the second round of the three-day playoffs, which begin June 24, at Riverfront Park.

“I’ve been playing third base for the last four years,” Walz said. “I’m the only one dumb enough to play it. I’m pretty sure that’s why I was selected to play in the first place.”

But although the team is sponsored by Walz’s rehabilitation center, every player wears, on the back of his jersey, the last name and former 12-Pack number of Mike “Chuck” Zunitch, who was killed in an automobile accident in Camp Verde last year.

“We play for Mike,” Walz said. “Everything’s for [him]. What a quality individual he was. He’d give the shirt off his own back for you. He’ll be with us forever.”

For more photos, final men's and women's league standings, playoff schedules and the full story, please see the Wednesday, June 24, issue of the Cottonwood Journal Extra.

Mingus Union High School swimmers Gunner Tillemans and Sean Williams were the best of five Cottonwood Clippers high-points finishers Saturday, June 13, at the Bullhead City Invitational.

Breaking three Bullhead City Invitational records was sophomore Gunner Tillemans. He won a total of five events against other 13- to 14-year-olds Saturday, June 13.
Tillemans, 14, and Williams, 17 — who will be a sophomore and senior, respectively, when they return to swim at MUHS in the fall — earned the highest amount of points among boys in their age groups out of a total of 288 swimmers.

Cottonwood swimmers Zoey Arwine, 12, and Rylie Burke, 14, also placed among the top three high-points finishers in their age groups as the Clippers placed fourth out of six teams in Bullhead City.

Their finish was a bold start to a summer season kicked off by 50 Clippers swimmers Thursday, June 11, with an unscored, “really fun” meet at a longer course pool in Anthem, head coach Daniel Nevarez said.
“The younger kids like the longer pool,” he said. “All the kids have been working hard in a season that started earlier than normal.”

Tillemans beat all other swimmers in his age group in five events, taking  the 100-meter individual medley in 1:10.27 and was the only swimmer in his age group to finish the 50-meter butterfly in under 30 seconds.

He also swam the 13- and 14-year-old 50-meter freestyle in 00:26.87 and the 50-meter breaststroke in 00:39.19, winning both heats, and was the only swimmer in his age group to post a sub-40-second time in the 50-meter backstroke.

“He did a fantastic job,” Nevarez said. “He broke three pool records. All of the kids went above and beyond for three-and-half-hours in the scorching heat.”

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

After the Mean Machine’s first summer tournament game Thursday, June 11, Pete Kelly’s blues were out in full force.

Mean Machine finished first out of 20 club teams from Arizona, California, Colorado and New Mexico on Sunday, June 14, at the Desert Classic in Mesa. The champion players and coaches, top row, from left: Assistant coaches Creighton Kim and Phil Tanner, Justin Tanner, Jordan Huey, Rafael Zapata, Jose Pacheco, Tyree Kim, head coach Pete Kelly, Brad Howard, Joe Machado and assistant coach William Henley; bottom row, from left: Wyatt Ross, Tyler Kelly, Andrew Kulis, Mitchell Lindsay, Gus Henley and Skylar Waynick.
“I’m thinking, ‘Oh, my God, are we that rusty?’” the head coach of the Cottonwood-based club baseball team said after getting no-hit, 8-0, by the Phoenix Vipers at the Desert Classic. “But the biggest thing about the boys was the bounceback. I told them how pathetic an effort it was — they knew they played [poorly], but they didn’t let it affect them and in the next game, they played ball like I knew they could.”

The turnaround paid immediate dividends, as Kelly’s son, Tyler, rebounded from the wasted complete game two-hitter on the mound against the Vipers to knock in the go-ahead run Sunday, June 14, in a 6-4 victory over the Phoenix Wild Fire for the championship of the Southwest wood bat tournament for teams 16 years old and under at Riverview Park in Mesa.

For the full story, please see the Wednesday, June 17, issue of the Cottonwood Journal Extra.

At the end of a dusty Rimrock street, five gold-medal winning Special Olympics athletes live and prepare together in a special-needs group home for their next competition after their wins May 7 at the Summer Games in Phoenix.

From left, Robert "Bobby" Davis, Bill Poteete, Rod Baluha and Robert "BB" Peterson, along with Scott Rutherford, all took home gold medals May 7 from the Arizona Special Olympics summer games. The Rimrock residents won in the softball throw and track and field events.
The newest Rimrock resident, Rod Baluha, 52, has won gold medals in swimming the past four years and now practices for bowling and golf after throwing a softball 26½ feet for the gold.

“It felt good,” he said. “I’ve got two more gold medals back at home.”

Baluha, a lifelong special-needs recipient, just missed another medal in the 100-meter race walk, finishing fourth in the event in 44:50.

Bobby Davis, 66, threw the softball 11.71 feet to take first in his age group.

“I came in pretty heavy on another kid,” he recalled. “It was neck-and-neck. We didn’t know who would get gold and who would get silver, so he copied me [and] I copied him. It turned out I got gold and he got second.”

Davis, who was born with developmental disabilities and was never taught how to read or write, nevertheless is looking to medal in the sport of bocce ball for the second consecutive year at the next Arizona state Special Olympics in October.

“It could go either way,” he said. “I’ve got more medals than you can count.

“I win a little, I lose a little. It doesn’t matter what place you come in, as long as you had a good time. That’s all that counts. I enjoy doing what I do for Special Olympics [for] quite a long time.”

Rimrock athletes also train for Special Olympics state events in basketball, bowling and swimming. Davis used to compete in golf but stopped after hitting someone in the groin with a drive.

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

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