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Although they each sport 2-5 records, the soccer teams at Cottonwood Middle School still have a shot at the postseason with four games to play.

Octavio Ortega kicks the ball hard, sending it toward the goal for the Cottonwood Middle School boys team, which took on Heritage Middle School in soccer last week. The Lobos boys and girls teams lost to the Chino Valley school but still look to make the Quad City League tournaments Saturday, May 2, with wins in their final four games.

After wins over Camp Verde and Rim Country middle schools, head coaches Mike Gilboy and Stacey Shelton will travel to Prescott Valley with their teams on Thursday, April 16. They will play Glassford Hill Middle School and stay in the hunt for the Quad City League semifinals and championships Saturday, May 2.

“We started out really slow,” Gilboy said. “The first couple games, it’s hard to know where everyone plays. Once you get them in position, they’ve been getting better and better all the time.”

Shelton felt her more experienced girls started strong, but will need help to get to the postseason.

“We’re working on our speed and our ballhandling the last couple games this season,” Shelton added. “We have four strikers up front, but they drop a little bit to help.”

With only 16 uniforms available for each team, Gilboy and Shelton had to cut 35 other CMS students before the season even started.

“Every little kid should be able to play,” Gilboy said. “It’s just really hard at this level — we don’t have the finances or competition.”

Then they have to further consolidate for coed games against the Oak Creek School and Mountain View Preparatory Academy. The Lobos are undefeated against their coed schedule, which will conclude at 4 p.m. against the Ocelots on Thursday, April 23, at CMS.

Emily Arellano, right, tries to steal the ball away from her Heritage opponent. The Lobos lost April 7 at home.

For the full story, please see the Wednesday, April 15, issue of the Cottonwood Journal Extra.

As another spring volleyball season winds down in the Cottonwood Recreation Center, Jack Teel can’t help but notice the smaller numbers.

The Cottonwood Recreation Center is running a co-ed volleyball league. Jose Gonzalez of team AGM swats the ball back over the net.
“We’re actually down a little bit in our B League teams,” said Teel, city recreation coordinator of sports and special events. “Older guys are retiring; we’re not getting an influx of younger kids.”

Just four B League teams and seven A League teams are competing this year for bragging rights atop the coed volleyball spring recreation league, which will conclude Thursday, April 16.

“The A League is going to be your more competitive league, where players go out to win,” Teel explained. “The B League is more recreational, where players go out just to have fun.

“There are usually six or seven recreational teams and nine or 10 competitive teams.”

For the full story, please see the Wednesday, April 15, issue of the Cottonwood Journal Extra.

A 200-pounder with a familiar name led all other eighth-graders competing Saturday, April 4, at the second Weekend Wars.

Favian Chagolla competed in Weekend Wars, the offseason  wrestling program inviting kids from across the state to hone their skills, taking first in the 200-pound weight class April 4.Favian Chagolla, the oldest grandson of Camp Verde High School assistant wrestling coach Mario Chagolla Sr., defeated two other wrestlers to take his first weight class win in four years from the Sterrett Wrestling Complex.

“I have to live on the Chagolla last name,” he said. “It’s a big honor. If I were to lose, that’s just another thing I think I’d catch it on.”

Chagolla, a self-described “math boy,” is motivated to go to tournaments as a CVHS freshman in the fall by a loss in the consolation bracket quarterfinals of the Middle School State Wrestling Championship in Tucson. There, he pinned two opponents but succumbed to being out of position and “some stupid headlocks” in two losses against wrestlers 45 pounds heavier.

“I wanted to place, but I didn’t get where I wanted to go,” he said. “I did make a lot of screw-ups at State — little mistakes I should have fixed, should have known.


“I have baseball season right now; right after that, I’m going to start coming in every weekend.”

Mario Chagolla, who is also the director of Camp Verde’s wrestling club New Breed, believes his grandson could be a potential two-time state champion — and would’ve possibly won the title four times had he not left the program between fourth and seventh grades at Camp Verde Elementary School.

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

The games may be just for fun, but in baseball and softball, it doesn’t get much more fun than winning big.

Eighth-grader Nick Dumford steps up to bat for the Lobos, soon earning a single. Cottonwood Middle School baseball defeated Big Park on Monday, April 6.

Such motivation has also kept the teams at Cottonwood Middle School undefeated after the Lobos swept Big Park Community School in their baseball and softball season series Monday, April 6, by a combined score of 27-1.

Chaz Taylor is the ace of a potent, loss-free group of Lobos pitchers that also includes fellow eighth-grader Justin Tanner and seventh-grader Dalton Zingali.

“I have, I’d say, three that are pretty solid, have lots of years of experience pitching,” said first-year head coach Troy Hoke, whose team has played three games in most weeks this spring. “Then we’ve got a couple kids that have maybe played on some teams growing up I’m giving some opportunities. I have all the kids pitch in practice, just to get familiar with it.”

Eighth-grader Joe Machado is the nominal catcher for Hoke, a long-time local Little League coach, who already is familiar with most of his players’ strengths and weaknesses from having coached them — and coached against them.

“He’s pretty much shut people down who are trying to run on us,” Hoke said. “It’s been pretty impressive to watch.”

That includes three pickoffs — one of a Camp Verde Middle School runner attempting to steal third base, the final out of a 14-0 shutout March 25 of the Cowboys, leaders of the Verde Valley League.

“We come to practice and know exactly what we need to work on,” he said. “Joe could be one of our top pitchers, but he took an interest in catching. He’s hit two home runs on the year already.”

So has Taylor, whose inside-the-park homer April 6 finished off Big Park.

When not pitching behind him, Tanner and Zingali form a solid left side of the infield at third base and shortstop, Hoke said, with his son, Trevor, playing second. Cameron Machek is at first base when not pitching, with fellow eighth-graders Nick Dumford, Colby Fanning and Antoine Zabala rounding out the outfield.

“The kids are starting to find their groove really well,” Hoke said. “We seem to have taught the fastball really well, but for some reason, off-speed pitches and the slow pitchers get them. We’ve been really working on timing, and they’re really being receptive.”

The allowance of a designated hitter in Lobos games has also given Hoke the freedom to bat a sixth-grader, Elian Martinez, for all seven innings of a game — or two hours, whichever comes first.

“He earned the rights to DH for us,” Hoke said. “The West Sedona game, he hit it all the way to the fence, which for a sixth-grader on a big field was a pretty big accomplishment.”

While nine players of the 25 who came out for the baseball team did not survive preseason cuts, the 12 Lobos softball players under co-coaches Brenda Zolman and Carol Karber are just coached to have fun.

Sixth-grader Carah Shilling pitches for the Lobos as Cottonwood Middle School softball beat Big Park.

For the full story and team schedules, please see the Wednesday, April 8, issue of the Cottonwood Journal Extra.

If you work in any kind of office — or even if you don’t — you probably filled out a National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball tournament bracket.

Among friends and in offices around America, predicting which teams would win and lose each game of the NCAA Tournament has exploded into an almost greater madness than the actual tournament.

Online groups have been formed, with hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and prizes awarded to the winner with the most accurate predictions.

From political forecasters like Nate Silver to those who live by their daily horoscope, millions throw $10 into the office pool to see if their totally random color- or mascot-based picks will come out on top.

Let me know how much March Madness destroyed your bracket by following @sedonanews on Twitter, and I'll tell you which part of this column was an April Fools' joke.

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

The first Weekend War of the offseason in Camp Verde was a day for the young and the Uhlers.
Oldest of the quintuple wrestlers in the family is Camp Verde High School sophomore Hayden Uhler, a two-time defending state champion who has already put on 22 more pounds since his 113-pound Division IV title Feb. 13.

Rhett Uhler won the kindergarten level of Weekend Wars on March 21 after pinning Gary Smiley.
On March 21, “The Punisher,” as Uhler is known at the Sterrett Wrestling Complex, beat all comers in the 135-pound weight class, taking first place. Then there are his little brothers, Korben and Racer — runners-up March 21 at 115 and 50 pounds, respectively.

“It’s kind of weird: The older kids never wanted to do anything else,” said Denae Uhler, stay-at-home mother to the Uhler wrestlers and wife of Jeremy Uhler, head wrestling coach at Camp Verde Middle School. “This is all that they know. If they wanted to do something else, it would be encouraged, but we love wrestling at our house.”

Tessa Uhler, Denae’s only daughter, is already a three-time girls state wrestling champion in the fifth grade. Such sibling wrestling rivalry can lead to Saturday nights at the Uhler home that can be a little, as Denae put it, “smackdown-ish.”

“Then we have the baby that’s laying in her lap, Cade,” Denae Uhler added. “We’ll try to wrestle him.”
“Wrestling is our sport and I try to support them as much as I can. I’m always here when they’re practicing, so this is a big part of our life.”

The newest member of the family to wrestle for the Camp Verde club New Breed hasn’t even started kindergarten yet.

Weighing 35 pounds, Rhett Uhler pinned 40-pound Gary Smiley of Cottonwood Elementary School to win the kindergarten level of Weekend Wars on March 21.

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

It’s all about team on the diamond this spring at Clarkdale-Jerome School.

Seventh-grader Anthony Godina swings hard and knocks the Pine Strawberry Elementary Elementary School pitch into the outfield for Clarkdale-Jerome School. Godina played shortstop but also pitches and catches for the 4-3 Mingus Rams.
Although eighth-graders Fletch Fangman and Colton Sorenson have transitioned into starting roles as pitching ace and third baseman, they were far from the only factors behind a 14-0 thrashing of Verde Valley League opponent Mayer Elementary School on Thursday, March 26.

“Just a team effort,” new head coach Jeremy Peters said. “The games we’ve played, we’ve gotten better.

“They’re competitive, they’re growing, they’re learning.”

It is because of what the team has learned from its three losses, in fact, that makes Peters feel the Mingus Rams will be in the running for the Verde Valley League title by the end of the season at Mayer, who Clarkdale has already swept this spring.

“I know we’ve got 16 guys, but it doesn’t mean we’re deep in terms of skill,” Peters said. “We’ve got a pretty balanced squad in terms of age, but really, it’s relatively new.”

Fangman, Sorenson and center fielder Mason Pacheco return to their roles from last season.

“Mason’s probably the best athlete on our team,” said Peters, a one-time assistant basketball coach at Mingus Union High School who volunteered to coach this spring. “Great hitter. Everybody looks to him and Fletch for leadership.”

Peters will also be pitching sixth-graders Andrew Nahar and his son Treyson.

“They’ve given us some solid innings,” Peters said. “They’re moving up.”

Peters’ son will also share shortstop duties with seventh-grader Anthony Godina, commanding a solid defensive unit in the infield.

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

Cottonwood 8-year-old Brennan Reilly journeyed thousands of miles on dozens of round trips to and from Phoenix with his father to achieve an all-around boys state gymnastics championship March 14.

Brennan Reilly, center, an 8-year-old home-schooled Cottonwood gymnast, won three events March 14 at the Arizona State Boys Gymnastics Championships in Chandler. Reilly also took home the all-around title for having the highest score out of more than 120 competing gymnasts.
Reilly, whose father Scott drives him to the Valley to train up to 12 hours over two to three days every week, scored the highest of more than 120 USA Gymnastics Junior Olympic competitors to take the Level 4 all-around gymnastics state title in Chandler as well as individual wins on the high bar, parallel bars and pommel horses.

“There are no opportunities for boys gymnastics in the Verde Valley,” Scott Reilly said. “Knowing Brennan’s passion, we wanted to make certain he was provided the opportunity to train seriously in the sport he loves so much.”

Enter Biltmore Gymnastics coach Robert Toy in September.

“Toward the end of summer, Brennan really wanted to start gymnastics again,” Reilly said. “So we looked for a gym and a coach that had experience training high-level gymnasts.”  

“When I first heard from the parents that they were willing to drive two hours each way for their son to train, I was both surprised and impressed,” Toy added. “Most competitive athletes train as much as 12 to 18 hours per week, and the distance just didn’t make this possible.”

For the full story, please see the Wednesday, March 25, issue of the Cottonwood Journal Exta.

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