For the first time in 23 years, the football programs at Mingus Union and Camp Verde high schools will lock horns Friday, Oct. 28, in a matchup almost everyone can’t wait to see.
“Even the day of our game last week, I had people saying they can’t wait for the Mingus game; it’s just crazy,” longtime Camp Verde Head Coach Luke Steege said.
Mingus Head Coach Bob Young thinks along the same lines as Steege, stating this contest is just another game, a game that needs to be won.
“It’s just another game we need to win. We haven’t thought about it much because we’ve been focused on our other opponents. For the kids it will be exciting, and it’s really more for the communities,” Young said.
Although the coaches will try to convince their respective players, the community members and even their own schools this is just another game, it’s not.
The two programs have been wildly successful in the last decade-plus, and are only 15 miles apart from one another.
Mingus won a 4A conference state title in 1997, and the Cowboys have made the 2A conference state playoffs almost every year since Steege took over in the late ’90s.
Thanks to the new Arizona Interscholastic Association alignment scheme, the Cowboys and Marauders will get their chance to finally settle what every Verde Valley sports fan wonders each season: Can Camp Verde, a solid football program but a much smaller school, compete with a much bigger school in Mingus, a program that is very successful?
Football fans will find out Friday shortly after the scheduled 7 p.m. kickoff time.
The first game these two football programs played against one another came in 1970. Mingus won the battle, 20-8, and has never looked back. Mingus is a perfect 7-0 all-time in the series with Camp Verde. The last game was in 1988, another Marauders victory at 41-7.
Both coaches admittedly watched film tirelessly this past weekend after their games Friday, Oct. 21, in an effort to get ready for the last regular season game.
Camp Verde celebrated its seniors with a 53-0 drubbing over Greyhills Academy High School this past Friday to improve to 7-2 overall this season. Mingus, on the other hand, was unable to earn a victory against Snowflake High School, losing a heartbreaker 32-29.
The Marauders trailed 26-21 with two minutes to go in the third quarter before Snowflake quarterback Chase Walden connected with wide receiver Brit Smith on an 81-yard touchdown pass, putting the game out of reach for Mingus.
Snowflake had 395 yards of total offense, 265 of which came in the air as Walden completed 12 of 24 passes for two touchdowns.
In Camp Verde, the Cowboys have nothing to lose playing Mingus, according to Steege.
“We are not defining our season with only one game against Mingus, but they are playing for their playoff lives this week. It’s not going to affect our standing in the playoffs, and we’re not going to lose a home game at state over it,” Steege said.
The Cowboys sit at No. 4 in the Division V AIA power point rankings, while Mingus is 5-4 overall and sits at No. 12.
If Camp Verde wins, it will more than likely stay at No. 4 and host a first-round game when the Division V state playoffs begin Friday, Nov. 4. If the Marauders lose, they could drop out of the Division IV playoff picture all together.
At No. 13 through No. 16 sit Window Rock [6-3], Coolidge [6-3], Parker [6-3] and Chinle [5-3] high schools. All four programs have a good chance at winning their respective games this Friday, meaning if Mingus loses, it would more than likely be done for the season.
“This is an absolutely must-win game for us,” Young said. “If we win, we’re going to the state playoffs. If we lose, we’re done. That’s how I’m looking at it.”
The Cowboys won’t risk any players to injury if they feel it is not in their best interest.
“We’re more concerned about the state playoffs. We still have some guys healing up, so if we see that they need to be pulled out to rest, we’ll do it,” Steege said.