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The Mingus Union High School boys soccer team missed the state playoffs last winter, but Head Coach Cade Densmore is determined to bring the Marauders back to the postseason.

Austin Strobel moves the ball downfield during Mingus Union High School’s scrimmage with North Canyon High School on  Nov. 16. Head Coach Cade Densmore expects big things out of his Marauders this season.“I’ve got a whole lot of guys this year and they are ready to roll,” Densmore said.

Mingus will have to do so in the newly minted Division III after the Arizona Interscholastic As-sociation realigned its schools in 2010, with team sports feeling the effects during the 2011-2012 school year.

The Marauders finished the 2010-2011 season with a 7-9 overall record, and were 6-6 in AIA power point matches. The 6-6 mark wasn’t good enough, however, to qualify for the state playoffs, leaving Mingus players without a postseason.

Top returners for the Marauders this season include senior captains Austin Strobel and Alex Contreras, who have been through it all for Mingus.

“This season is the one we’ve been waiting for. There’s a core group of seniors who have played together for years and we are finally at the point we’ve been working toward. All the guys have a want to win and are working hard to achieve our goal of setting Mingus boys soccer records,” Strobel said.

Strobel will start for the Marauders this winter for the fourth consecutive year, while Contreras should be a starter for the third year.

“I have great expectations for this season, but what I expect is only words. My words need to be put into action. Once the team and myself accomplish these actions we have the skill and ability to win each and every game we play,” Contreras said.

Other top returners include senior Williams Dominguez, a three-year starter, while seniors Andrew Hickey, Jorge Padilla and juniors Gilbert Quidera and Alan Castillo also return.

Quidera was the starting goalkeeper for Mingus last season, but is being challenged by two senior newcomers Johnny Lara and Anas Jibrin.

“I’m not sure how exactly it’s going to play out yet, but we’ll see what happens. All three are good, and whoever gets in there should do a good job for us,” Densmore said.

The Marauders will be without the services of three-year starting senior Jonathon Witt this season, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament last week and is done for the year.

As for the remaining top newcomers, sophomores Palon Walz, Omar Carrillo and Brennan Kitchen are out. Kitchen broke his hand in football this fall, but should recover in time to play most of the season.

Densmore couldn’t stop talking about Ruben Contreras and Elias Pandeca, a pair of young freshmen who made the varsity squad this season.

“Ruben [Contreras] could be one of the best overall players to ever come through Mingus if he continues to improve,” Densmore said.

Sophomore Christian Escobar made the team as well. Escobar, Contreras and Pandeca are all expected to get major playing time this season, according to Densmore.

The Marauders open the 2011-2012 campaign at home Tuesday, Nov. 29, when Bradshaw Mountain High School comes to town. Official start time is set for 5 p.m.

Other notable home matches for Mingus include Sedona Red Rock High School on Thursday, Dec. 15, and Prescott High School on Thursday, Jan. 12.

The Cowboys’ 68-41 loss to No. 3 Thatcher High School in the second round of the 2A conference state tournament in February wasn’t how Head Coach Darren Gagnon wanted things to end last season.

Senior Brian Hudson looks to put two points on the  board however he can during a basketball scrimmage at home against Joy Christian Academy on Thursday, Nov. 17. The Camp Verde High School boys basketball team finished 17-14  overall last season, and the Cowboys hope to repeat that success.The good news is, basketball season has begun once again at Camp Verde High School.

“We will have a well-rounded team this season. We will not be great at any one position, but we’ll be stronger together. What’s nice is our kids pull for each other, and they share the ball well. They just play together well,” Gagnon said.

Camp Verde finished the 2010-2011 campaign with an even 14-14 overall record. Having played one of its toughest regular season schedules in the program’s history, Gagnon was more than pleased with a 17-14 mark last year.

The Cowboys lost four seniors to graduation in May, two of whom were more than likely the best players in the Verde Valley, Trey Cooper and Shaq Watahomigie. Daniel Brunner and Kyle Niederer were the other two.

“I think my biggest expectation this season is we will see a different take on Camp Verde basketball. We had a couple of really talented kids [Watahomigie and Cooper] play for us for a long time and now our team will just look a little different,” Gagnon said.

Replacing Watahomigie and Cooper will not be easy for Gagnon but the Cowboys still have plenty of talent left over from last winter.

Top returners this season for Camp Verde include senior center Jake Spleiss and senior guards Brian Hudson and Johnny Hudson.

At 6-foot, 4-inches, Spleiss is a force in the middle while the Hudson boys provide an outside presence at the guard position.

“I think we’ll have a ton of success as soon as we begin to gel like we did in the summer. We’ve only been together a short time and we are looking promising,” Spleiss said.

Senior Deshon Tripp returns this winter as well, but injuries suffered during football season may slow his progress in the early part of this season. Tripp fractured his shoulder in the last football game of the season for Camp Verde on Nov. 11. Gagnon reported there is no timetable for Tripp’s return this season. Other top returners include seniors Marco Lozanilla and Josh Benson.

Top newcomers this season for the Cowboys include seniors Joe Wilson and Chris Zellner along with juniors Jacob Lewis, Cezar Quevas, Justin Reay and Ryan Dufresne. Sophomores Kenu Garcia and Mitchel Lapham also made the team.

The regular season schedule will be just as tough as it was last season for the Cowboys this winter with games against Coconino, Prescott and Bradshaw Mountain high schools.

Generally, Camp Verde does not play Coconino, Prescott and Bradshaw Mountain during regular season power point games, but with the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s changes to alignments, it does now.

“With the new alignment, we don’t know what to expect. I’ll be happy if we just compete with some of those teams,” Gagnon said.

Other top games for Cowboys fans to consider attending include the two home games against Mingus Union and Sedona Red Rock high schools.

Mingus is scheduled to visit Camp Verde on Tuesday, Jan. 24, while Sedona comes to town Friday, Feb. 3, which happens to be the regular season finale.

The past seven seasons for the Mingus Union High School boys basketball program have been difficult to bear for its fans, and its players, but brighter times are ahead.

Clancy Odegard, a junior on the team, takes a shot during practice Tuesday, Nov. 15.Over the summer, Mingus Athletic Director Mike Boysen searched high and low for a new basketball coach, a guy that was willing to literally pull the Marauders basketball program off the ground and bring it back to respectability.

He found 30-year-old Mark Owens, an administrative assistant for the Drake University men’s basketball program, who agreed to become Mingus’ new history teacher and its new basketball coach in August.

“The group I’ve inherited in general doesn’t have a lot of firepower from last year. Right now, we’re looking to create a basketball identity and hopefully the boys will enjoy taking pride in the process,” Owens said.

Owens, who is originally from Elmira, Calif., taught and coached basketball at Tempe High School straight out of college in 2003.

As fate would have it, the last time Mingus made the state playoffs was 10 years ago during the 2001-2002 season. Mingus lost to Tempe in the first round of the 4A conference state tournament, 68-66.

Since that fateful day in February 2002, however, Mingus basketball flew south for the winter and hasn’t returned.

Beginning from the start of the 2004-2005 campaign, the Marauders have a 59-118 overall record. One of the worst seasons came last year when Mingus finished 3-21 overall, leading to the resignation of Head Coach Scott Sanderlin after three years on the job.

Sanderlin was 19-55 overall during his time with Mingus, while Craig Mai, the head coach before Sanderlin, was 40-63 in his four seasons at the helm. Mai resigned after the 2007-2008 season, leading Mingus to hire Sanderlin.

Mingus graduated seven seniors in May including top players like Erick Quesada, Carlos Sandoval, Daniel Martinez and Jose Gonzalez.

Top returners for the Marauders this season include seniors Luke Sanders, Evan McFarland and Sergio Romero along with juniors Clancy Odegard, Sam Johnson and Tyler Herndon.

Mingus opens its 2011-2012 regular season schedule on the road this year, taking a trip south to Wickenburg High School on Tuesday, Nov. 29.

The Marauders are scheduled to participate in the inaugural Red Rock Hoops Classic, set to begin Thursday, Dec. 1. The tournament is hosted by rival Sedona Red Rock High School.

Mingus will return home Tuesday, Dec. 6, to host Payson High School. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. The Marauders have eight home games this season including rival Flagstaff High School on Tuesday, Dec. 20.

Other notable home games include Camp Verde High School on Thursday, Jan. 19, and against Sedona on Thursday, Feb. 2. More than likely, the game against the Scorpions will be Mingus’ senior night.

The Camp Verde High School wrestling team begins the 2011-2012 season looking to reach its goals of not only winning a sectional title, but a state championship as well.

Camp Verde High School senior wrestlers Michael Casillas, left, and Derrick Brown take to the mats during practice Friday,  Nov. 11. Head Coach Bob Weir expects big things out of his Cowboys this season, hoping to win a Division IV state title in February.Head Coach Bob Weir believes this year’s Cowboys team could be strong enough and deep enough to do it, but reaching the aforementioned goals will take hard work.

“We’ve got some good kids. We’ll have over 30 wrestlers on the mat this season now that football is over,” Weir said.

The beginning of the regular season is coming rather quickly with the first seven-way meet set for Tuesday, Nov. 22, in Camp Verde.

Joseph City, Parker, Canyon State, Benson, Wickenburg and Flagstaff high schools will be in attendance next week, with the Cowboys looking to top all of them.

The schedule is brutal this season for the Cowboys, according to Weir. Camp Verde is set to wrestle at the Arizona State University Blackford Tournament over Christmas break, and the boys will be at the Payson Invitational during the middle of January.

“The schedule this year is tough, but we have high expectations,” Weir said.

Top returners for this year’s squad include two solid seniors in Michael Casillas and Derek Brown. Casillas finished sixth overall at state his junior year in the 106-pound division and will be looking for a state title this winter. As for Brown, he was third overall at 145 pounds in 2010-2011.

Camp Verde has a solid junior core of grapplers returning as well beginning with Heath Carroll who returns at 138 pounds after taking fourth overall in the Division IV State Championships last winter.

Junior Joel Lobaugh returns along with junior teammate Alex Anzar. Both Lobaugh and Anzar’s weight classification is yet to be determined, but the two should wrestle

anywhere between 145 and 160 pounds.

Junior Anthony McBeth returns to grapple at 220 pounds while junior Elmer Ruiz is set at 190 pounds.

In the sophomore class, 113-pound Isaiah McReynolds returns along with 145-pound Chance Weir.

Top newcomers for the Cowboys this season include senior Jacob Dodge at 126 pounds, and a pair of freshmen in Ryan Alred and Jeremiah Crespo. Alred should wrestle at 119 pounds, according to Weir. Alred was a three-time state title holder in middle school.

“We have a good coaching staff this year and again, our goal is to win a state title. This should be a good year,” Bob Weir said.

Despite heavy rains the night before and the Cave Creek Golf Course path needing to be redone, the Division III State Championships eventually got under way Saturday, Nov. 5, with the Marauders finishing well.

Juan Wells, left, Colin Garttmeier, middle, and Skyler Storie were the top finishers for the Mingus Union High School cross-country team Saturday, Nov. 5, at the Division III State Championships in Phoenix.For the Mingus Union High School boys cross-country team, the Marauders finished fifth overall as a team, scoring 140 points.

Chinle High School won the state title with 71 points while Rio Rico High School took second with 86 and Tuba City High School was third with 95.

Missing one of its top runners, the Mingus girls finished seventh overall with 162 points. Senior Emma Schraner did not participate Saturday due to a foot injury she sustained two weeks ago.

“She tried to go, but after that injury she got to her foot two weeks ago on a rocky course, her foot just wouldn’t allow her to go,” longtime Mingus Head Coach Jim Bostwick said.

The Chinle girls won the state title with 74 points while Page High School wasn’t far behind in second place with 77. Saguaro High School wrapped up the top three with 99 points.

Individually for the boys, senior Juan Wells was the best overall finisher for the Marauders, taking third overall with a 16:03.10 time.

Junior Jake Wynn of Saguaro won the individual state title with a 15:39.59 time.

Senior Colin Garttmeier finished eighth overall with a 16:21.64 time while sophomore Gustavo Banks was 22nd overall with a 17:03.14 time.

For the girls, senior Skylar Storie finished 10th overall with a 20:11.95 time while sophomore Justine Taylor was 36th overall with a 21:26.40 time.

Senior Taylor Jochim was 40th overall with a 21:33.69 time and senior Alex Henley was 41st overall with a 21:38.28 time.

“The girls were shorthanded so we ran with six girls. It’s not often a coach says that they all ran well, but when it does happen it usually results in a great team effort,” Bostwick said.

The No. 4-seeded Camp Verde High School football team advanced itself to the second round of the Division V state playoffs Friday, Nov. 4, defeating visiting Phoenix Christian High School, 39-14.

Gavin Collins, No. 87, celebrates a rushing touchdown for the Cowboys during their first-round playoff game Friday, Nov. 4, against Phoenix Christian High School.“Phoenix Christian is not bad; they’ve got some talent. I think we just wore them down a little bit. They got tired, and when they got behind they didn’t play well. They couldn’t throw the ball at all and we stopped their stud running back pretty well,” Camp Verde Head Coach Luke Steege said.

Phoenix Christian, which came to town with a 7-3 overall record and a No. 13 ranking in the state playoffs, found itself in unfamiliar territory Friday with the nasty Northern Arizona weather not making things easy on the Cougars.

For the entire first half, sheets of rain fell from the sky and sometimes went sideways with up to 30-mile-per-hour winds off Mingus Mountain. The second half rain was much lighter, but the wind did not let up, giving Phoenix Christian fits on offense.

Since the Cougars are used to the mild temperatures of the Phoenix area, coming north to Camp Verde during the beginning of winter had an effect on the boys in green and white, and it showed from the start.

On the third play from scrimmage, Camp Verde senior quarterback Deshon Tripp found fellow senior teammate Kody Rayburn wide open down the middle for a 74-yard touchdown pass, giving the Cowboys a 6-0 lead.

Phoenix Christian players were a bit slow on the play, worried more about losing their footing on a sloppy playing field than covering Rayburn, which proved to be fatal.

Despite the weather, the 13th-ranked Cougars found a way to stay with the Cowboys at least until the midway point of the third quarter.

Up 18-14 with just under six minutes to go, Camp Verde stopped the Cougars on its own 23-yard line to force a fourth down.

The turning point in the game was when Phoenix Christian Head Coach Brandon Harris decided to kick a 40-yard field goal instead of going for it, or doing a pooch punt.

Camp Verde senior Jake Spleiss recovered the blocked field goal attempt, then returned it to midfield before finally being brought down.

“I don’t know what he was thinking. There’s no way they would of made that field goal, especially in that weather. I mean, all they had to do was give it to their stud running back. I was shocked,” Steege said.

A few plays later, Camp Verde scored to make it 24-14 and had a successful try on the two-point conversion, giving the Cowboys a 26-14 lead. From then on, the Cougars couldn’t get any momentum and lost, 39-14.

The Arizona Republic selected its first-round winners Friday for the Division V state playoffs, picking every higher seeded team to win its first-round game, except for Camp Verde. The lack of respect wasn’t used as motivation for his players, according to Steege.

“They never pick us,” Steege said with a smile. “If it looks like it’s going to be a good game, they don’t pick us. I’m fine with it; they can just keep not picking us.”

With the win, Camp Verde improves to 9-2 overall this season and will play St. Johns High School in the Division V quarterfinals Friday, Nov. 11. The game will be held at Williams Field High School in Gilbert.

“St. Johns is pretty good. They look fast. We’re going to do what we always do. I think we can throw the ball on them in the flat; it may be a possibility. We’ll have to play well,” Steege said.

Kickoff is set for 3 p.m.

The second annual Halloween Skate Competition at Riverfront Park in Cottonwood on Saturday, Oct. 29, was big enough to hold several skateboard enthusiasts who had come from different parts of Arizona.

Cottonwood skater Travis Crow, 16, executes tricks during the second annual Halloween Skate Competition at the Cottonwood skate park Saturday, Oct. 29.Wearing a clown suit and carrying a megaphone, event coordinator Helena Elder-Hamilton was thrilled to see everyone out for this second annual event.

Several other skateboarders dressed in costumes and face paint looking to win top prize for best dressed. Even the older kids had the Halloween spirit in them before competing.

Elder-Hamilton, owner of a local skateboard retailer in Cottonwood, constantly barked directions to the young skate hopefuls, but seemed to enjoy the competition just as much as the kids.

Jacob Phelps, an 18-year-old Camp Verde High School student, was on hand in the ages 16 to 18 division and was happy with his performance Saturday.

“I’ve been skating for nine years now and I’ve been to eight competitions like this. I think I did pretty good,” Phelps said.

When asked what his favorite skateboard trick is, Phelps took a minute to think but eventually had a great answer.

“You know what, any trick I can pull off is a good one,” Phelps said with a smile.

Elder-Hamilton set up the competition to help raise money for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and Xtreme Union, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building extreme sports complexes like the one at Riverfront Park.

Morgan Julian, a 17-year-old Cottonwood resident, was glad to be on hand for the competition since it was the first one he’s ever done.

“I started skating about six years ago, but this is my first-ever competition. So far, I haven’t done as good as I can today, but hopefully, I’ll get better,” Julian said.

Julian isn’t looking to go to the next level with his skateboarding, but prefers to do it over most other things.

“It’s really more of just a hobby for me,” Julian said.

For the first time in school history, the Cowboys were able to celebrate on the field after a matchup with cross-valley rival Mingus Union High School, claiming a 41-31 victory.

Kody Rayburn, right, demonstrates his speed yet again during a big rush down Sam Hammerstrom Field at the Camp Verde and Mingus Union high schools football game Friday, Oct. 28.To the chagrin of all Marauders fans wearing red Friday, Oct. 28, Camp Verde High School football Head Coach Luke Steege and his boys tore their hearts out, sending them home with a loss that wasn’t expected.

When asked if he thought this was the biggest win for Camp Verde during his tenure, Steege had no problem answering yes.

“You would have to say this is the biggest win for us at Camp Verde,” Steege said just seconds before getting doused with Gatorade by his team on the field after the game ended. “We played so well; this was definitely a big win.”

In front of one of the biggest crowds to attend a football game in Camp Verde, it was the first time in 23 years these two football programs had met, with Mingus winning the first seven contests by more than three touchdowns each.

The 2011 version of the Camp Verde football team, which improved to 8-2 overall after Friday’s win, had no intentions of letting that happen this time around.

Camp Verde took a 14-0 lead after touchdowns by senior stars Chris Zellner and Kody Rayburn. Zellner’s touchdown came on Camp Verde’s second possession, after he caught a pass from quarterback Deshon Tripp and outran Mingus defenders 45 yards for the score.

Tripp was 11 for 15 for 149 yards and three touchdowns, most of which came after reinjuring his leg in the second quarter. Tripp sat out only one defensive possession, but returned to the game and undoubtedly gave his team a lift.

In Camp Verde’s third possession, Rayburn added to the 7-0 lead with a big run of his own to make it 14-0.

Mingus came back to tie it up 14-14 before the end of the first quarter, and took a 17-14 lead in the second before Camp Verde made it 21-17 heading in to the locker room at halftime.

The two teams would score a touchdown each in the third quarter, making it 28-24 Camp Verde before the final period.

With 9:38 to go in the game, Rayburn ran 72 yards for a touchdown to make it 35-24 and it seemed Mingus was done.

Rayburn recorded his third touchdown of the night with 7:01 to go to seal the deal. Rayburn had 19 carries for 207 yards and three touchdowns in the 41-31 win.

“I think this win just shows that we are ready for the playoffs. We have a great shot, and it all starts next week,” Steege said.

The No. 4 seeded Cowboys begin their quest for a Division V state championship Friday, Nov. 4, when they host No. 13 seeded Phoenix Christian High School.

Phoenix Christian finished 7-3 overall this season, but lost to Scottsdale Christian High School on Oct. 14, 49-0. Camp Verde beat Scottsdale Christian to open the 2011 schedule, 38-14.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

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