With mostly juniors playing every down in 2010, the 2011 version of the Camp Verde High School football team is loaded with senior talent looking to not only make the state playoffs, but make a run at a title.
The Cowboys finished the 2010 campaign with a 6-6 overall record, winning their first game over Pusch Ridge High School in the first round of the 2A conference state playoffs, 35-7.
The next week, Camp Verde struggled, losing to St. Johns High School in the quarterfinals, 28-14.
Longtime Camp Verde Head Coach Luke Steege believes this year’s team is loaded with experience at almost every position in the starting lineup, making for an interesting preseason outlook for the Cowboys.
“We basically have our top quarterback, running back, receiver and four of the five offensive linemen back on the field this season,” Steege said.
Starting with senior quarterback Deshon Tripp, the Cowboys should have nine, maybe 10 senior starters on offense.
Tripp was a second team All-Region quarterback last season, completing 47 of 86 passes for 706 yards and eight touchdowns while rushing 119 times for 555 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Camp Verde’s dual-threat quarterback is one of the main reasons why the Cowboys will be tough to stop on offense.
Other top returners on offense include senior running back Kody Rayburn, who had 810 yards rushing and five touchdowns in 2010 while senior wide receiver Gavin Collins had 16 catches for 326 yards and three touchdowns. Rayburn was a second team All-Region performer in 2010.
Senior Jake Spleiss returns to play receiver and third-string quarterback in 2011. As for the offensive line, seniors Josh Collins, Joe Wilson, Andy Minner and Chandler Maine all return and should start for Steege.
As for the defense, many of the Cowboys will play both ways, according to Steege, but senior safety Seth Terry and senior cornerback Tyler Ward stand out this season as players to watch in 2011.
Stanley is one of the many who will play both ways, but he was selected a first team All-Region defensive tackle in 2010 and Cowboys fans can bet on getting that type of effort out of him again this fall.
Steege believes all of his players are bigger, and stronger, than they were last season thanks to a solid off-season training program in the weight room.
“We had a lot of seniors this off-season give us a good weight room turnout, and we are much bigger and stronger than before,” Steege said.
The preseason camp in Seligman was a big help too, according to Steege, with 20-plus boys sleeping on the gymnasium floor and assistant coaches blowing the whistle at 5:30 a.m. every morning for four days.
As for the schedule, the Cowboys get started right away with a home game against Scottsdale Christian High School to open the season Friday, Aug. 26.
Other home games include visits from Williams, Cortez, Greyhills Academy and Mingus Union high schools. Road games include Payson, Chino Valley, Sedona Red Rock, Tempe Preparatory Academy and Northwest Christian high schools.
“It’s not going to be easy, but we’ll make it work. We have a good team, and we’ll be ready,” Steege said.
If the Cowboys do well enough in the regular season, they should qualify for the playoffs as one of 24 teams making the Division V state playoffs.
Camp Verde sits in Section I [Division V], but it plays only three of the 11 teams within its section this season including Greyhills, Sedona and Williams.
Favorites to make the final four this season include Northwest Christian, St. Johns, Valley Christian and, of course, Camp Verde.
“It’s a long season. We’ll just start with the first game and go from there,” Steege said.