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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 boast a mature and experienced football team for the 2011 season including, clockwise from left, Deshon Tripp, Jake Spleiss, Chris Zellner, Kody Rayburn and David Stanley, just five of the 17 seniors ready to start the season with a home game against Scottsdale Christian High School on Friday, Aug. 26.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.

Senior Kody Rayburn is one of the top running backs in Division V football this season, and he could have a big senior year for the Camp Verde High School football team in 2011.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.

Mayra Perez keeps the ball at a comfortable height with a bump during Camp Verde High School volleyball team practice Friday, Aug. 12. The Cowboys open the 2011 season at Mingus Union High School on Tuesday, Aug. 30.After three seasons of futility, the Camp Verde High School volleyball team pieced things together in 2010, going 15-15 overall to qualify for the 2A conference state playoffs.

Now in her third season as head coach, Darcy Evans is hoping to equal the team’s success in 2010 and take the next step in 2011.

“We pretty much have the same team from last year,” Evans said. “Our goals are, of course, to make it back to state this year, and work as a team from the beginning.

The Cowboys lost only one senior to graduation in Shayna Sterrett, but it looks like they lost another starter in junior Donnie Buss, who chose to play soccer this season.

Nevertheless, Camp Verde returns seven players from the 2010 squad looking to get back to the state playoffs.

This season, the Cowboys sit in Division IV [Section I], instead of the normal 2A they’ve been in for last six seasons.

The Arizona Interscholastic Association officially realigned the individual sports during the 2010-2011 school year, and the team sports are set to begin their new adventure in 2011-2012.

Evans said Camp Verde won’t be too worried about the new realignment phase for the AIA, but instead will focus on the 18 players who came out for volleyball this season.

Top returners for Camp Verde include juniors Amanda Showers and Katie Wilson. Showers may find herself playing middle blocker this season for the Cowboys while Wilson should sit at the outside hitter spot.

“I am extremely excited, and I think we can make it to state this year,” Wilson said.

Seniors Amber Gesser and Mayra Perez also return, with Gesser taking over the setter position this season while Perez moves to outside hitter.

Other top returners include junior Jenny Lawson at left outside hitter and sophomores Caitlin Harris [outside hitter] and Kayla Nederer [setter].

A top newcomer worth noting this season is junior Jade Ruis, who has made the team, according to Evans. A position is unclear for Ruis but she should get plenty of playing time as the eighth player on the roster, giving Evans a clearer look at what her strengths and weaknesses are.

The Cowboys are scheduled to begin their 2011 fall campaign at Scottsdale Christian High School on Friday, Aug. 26, in a scrimmage match.

Camp Verde will open the season at home against cross-valley rival Mingus Union High School on Tuesday, Aug. 30, with a start time set for 6 p.m.

The Cowboys have a tough start to the 2011 season with Mingus in the opener, Bradshaw Mountain High School on Thursday, Sept. 1, and rival Sedona Red Rock High School a week later on Thursday, Sept. 8.

The match against Sedona will be a good test since the Scorpions are in Division IV as well and are expected to compete for a state championship come November.

Dave Miller, left, and his wife, Debbie Miller, stay still for a moment to take a picture at a soccer barbecue for alumni players Saturday, Aug. 6. The Millers coach at Camp Verde High School. Dave Miller is the head man in charge for the varsity boys soccer team and Debbie Miller coaches the varsity softball team.For Dave and Debbie Miller, coaching is a part of life.

Ask any athlete who thanks them for their recent success on the field, or in life, and nine times out of 10, they point to a past coach.

The Millers have gone the distance and beyond for the hundreds of kids they’ve coached in the last two decades at Camp Verde High School.

More times than not, the significant other of a coach is usually on the sidelines cheering his or her loved ones on in full support. People see it on television, with coaches’ wives sitting in the stands, living every moment just as their husbands are on the sidelines.

Sometimes, roles are reversed, and people see the husband in the stands, cheering on his wife and her respective team.

Rarely do people see both the husband and wife so enthralled in a community of sports, coaching two separate sports in two different times of year. That’s what the Town of Camp Verde sees in the Millers.

Both have won state championships in Camp Verde, the first coming in 2004 for Dave Miller when his boys soccer team won the 1A-3A conference state crown. The second came in 2009 for Debbie Miller, who watched her team jump for joy on the softball diamond after earning the school’s first state title in nearly 30 years.

Both watch on the sidelines, living through every moment, then going home and talking about it, bouncing ideas off one another. Both have been around long enough to earn the respect of their peers and the kids they coach.

When asked what it’s like to have a wife who is just as competitive as he is, Dave Miller said it keeps them both from driving each other crazy.

“After the soccer season is over on the bus ride home, I always pull out a blank pad of paper and begin writing a projected lineup for next year’s squad. That drives her nuts, because most of the time she’s sitting right next to me,” Miller said with a smile. “But then she sits back and completely understands, because she goes through the same thing.”

When Debbie Miller was asked the same question, she had a little different answer, but the thought process was still the same.

“I think we use it to our advantage,” Miller said of being a married couple who coaches kids. “We bounce things off one another, and we complement each other. He gives me a male’s point of view because he coaches boys. It can be very helpful. It’s a unique situation, but it’s special. He’s always been supportive.”

Dave Miller, who is originally from Ganado, grew up in Flagstaff and eventually graduated from Coconino High School in 1971. Debbie Miller graduated from Coconino in 1973, but the two didn’t date during that time.

“I look back, and I barely remember him. I didn’t know who he was. It was only after high school that we started dating,” Debbie Miller said.

After high school, Dave Miller took a job stocking for a local grocery store, which is where the two met and began dating before tying the knot in 1976.

Dave Miller ran for the cross country team in high school and was a wrestler.

“I actually never played soccer. I didn’t even get involved in soccer until my kids did years later when they were young,” Dave Miller said.

As for Debbie Miller, she played two years of varsity volleyball for Coconino before graduating, but the school did not offer softball for girls at the time.

The two eventually went on to Northern Arizona University, but Debbie Miller was the only one to graduate, getting her degree in physical education and health management in 1977, a year after the two were married.

“I actually played volleyball, basketball and softball for NAU. My senior year, however, I didn’t play any of those sports, and looking back at it now, I wish I did,” Debbie Miller said.

Debbie Miller started substitute teaching but was more concerned with raising her kids while Dave Miller worked as a grocery store manager.

Eventually, the Millers bought a house in Camp Verde in the summer of 1993 and brought all five kids with them.

Debbie Miller began working at the local elementary school after earning her certification, and the two began their coaching careers at Camp Verde not long after.

Dave Miller was quick to add how he got involved in coaching high school sports.

“At the time, the boys had a varsity and a junior varsity and the girls were just adding a team. In a parent meeting, the coach said we need volunteers to help out or we’re going to dissolve the team. My wife raised her hand and said, ‘My husband will do it,’” Dave Miller said with a laugh as he recalled that night nearly 16 years ago.

Dave Miller began as a parent volunteer for a year, then coached the junior varsity before eventually taking over in 2000 as the head coach for the Cowboys.

Since that time, Dave Miller has won six regional championships and one state title in 2004, one of the most successful runs for a coach at Camp Verde.

As for Debbie Miller, she started coaching softball for the Cowboys as a junior varsity coach, then took over the program in 1996. During her time, the Cowboys have won seven regional titles and one state title in 2009, and qualified for the state playoffs nearly every season.

“When he won the state title, all I could think about was I wanted to win one too.

We support each other, and we work together,” Debbie Miller said.

In a few weeks when the soccer season gets under way, Dave Miller will be pacing the sidelines as always, barking out orders to his troops while Debbie Miller sits calmly in a lawn chair, doing stats for the Cowboys as she has done for a decade.

When softball season comes in February, Dave Miller will frequent the stands, cheering on the Cowboys, but more importantly, cheering on his wife.

“This is what we do; it’s our life,” Dave Miller said.

It won’t be long before one or two of the couple’s five children or 11 grandchildren are doing the same. Coaching runs in the family.

Jeremiah Wilmot, 17, competes for the Camp Verde Swim Team in the 50-yard freestyle event at the Verde Valley Invitational on Saturday, July 30.After a one-year absence from competition, the Camp Verde Swim Team was back in full force Friday and Saturday, July 29 and 30, for the annual Verde Valley Invitational.

Crocodiles Head Coach Merika Bach was excited and pleased to see her kids back in the pool again, doing what they love.

“We’re happy to have swimmers again, and to see them improve over the summer has been awesome,” Back said.

Although it was only their third meet of the summer, the Crocodiles had several top finishes worth noting.

John Castillo had a few top three finishes at the Cottonwood Community Pool over the weekend for Camp Verde, making him the most impressive swimmer for the Crocodiles at the invitational.

In the 100-yard freestyle swim, Castillo took first overall with a 1:07.72 time while taking second in the 50-yard butterfly event with a 34.39 time. He took third in the 50-yard breaststroke event as well with a 39.17 time.

“He rocked it,” Back said. “John [Castillo] took second place in high points in his age group.”

Other top performances for the Crocodiles included Sadie Atwell who took fifth overall in the 25-yard freestyle event with an 18.51 time.

Madison Burkholder was sixth in the 25-yard breaststroke event with a 30.34 time and teammate Kennedy Nasch was seventh in the same event with a 30.75 time.

Nasch and Burkholder teamed up with Claire Peterson and Jade Bach to finish fourth overall in the 100-yard freestyle relay event with a 1:43 time.

In the 50-yard butterfly event, Cody Sant took sixth overall with a 50.97 time while also taking seventh in the 50-yard freestyle with a 33.37 time.

In the 25-yard breaststroke, Justin Ritzentchaler took fifth overall with a 28.91 time.

“It was good to see these kids swim great. We haven’t had much practice time, so they did well,” Merika Bach said.

The Crocodiles practice about one hour a night during the week in the summer. Camp Verde began its summer season June 1.

Camp Verde competed in two other events — the Payson Invitational and the Prescott Valley Invitational at Mountain Valley Splash.

“The Verde Valley Invitational was our last event of the summer, but we’ll get going again next year for sure,” Bach said.

Catcher Paige Church, center, shows her excitement before a District 10 tournament game June 24. Church was a big reason why the Camp Verde Majors All-Stars softball team made it to the state championship game July 15.A long, impressive run for a championship came to an end July 15 for the Camp Verde Majors All-Stars softball team [ages 11 to 12] as they were swept in a best of three series by the Sunnyside All-Stars, 2-0.

“Our goal was to teach the girls to be proud, hard-working and productive teammates on and off the field and I believe we accomplished that goal,” Camp Verde Head Coach Henry Smith said.

“Winning isn’t always about the final score; it’s about how you played the game. These young girls played with honor and respect,” he added.

Camp Verde was paired with the Sunnyside All-Stars in the championship series July 14 and lost the first game, 6-3.

The loss meant Camp Verde had to win the next one if it was to force a game three, but the girls in blue were unable to do so, losing 11-3.

Dusty Dowdle took the ball as the starting pitcher for Camp Verde and went six innings, allowing 11 runs on 11 hits while walking four and striking out five.

Offensive standouts included shortstop Nieja Garner who was 2-3 with an RBI and two runs scored while third baseman Taya Smith was 2-3 with a double and two RBIs.

Second baseman Gabrielle Ontiveros chipped in as well, going 2-3 at the plate against Sunnyside.

“I believe this was a season that they will remember forever,” Henry Smith said. “I just want to say thanks to the Camp Verde Little League for giving these kids an opportunity to play the game they love, and I want to thank the parents for their support. Also, I’d like to thank Raul Hatch and Christina Parker for helping us get to where we wanted to be.”

After winning the District 10 title at the beginning of July, Camp Verde continued its long winning streak in the first round of the Arizona Little League All-Stars State Tournament.

Camp Verde faced off against the Cactus Foothills All-Stars out of District 3 and had no problems July 6, winning 10-0.

In round two of the North Sectionals at Anthem Community Park, Camp Verde was given a scare July 8, but came out on top in a 3-2 win over the Blue Ridge All-Stars.

The two wins in pool play put Camp Verde against the Queen Creek All-Stars on July 12, a game which Camp Verde squeaked by in a 10-9 victory. The win advanced Camp Verde to the championship round against Sunnyside.

Ezekial Casillas looks to throw a Sedona All-Stars runner out at first base Saturday, July 9, in Prescott Valley. Casillas and the Camp Verde All-Stars are 3-1 in the District 10 Arizona Little League All-Stars Tournament.After losing its first game July 6 in the District 10 Arizona Little League All-Stars Tournament, the Camp Verde Majors All-Stars baseball team [ages 11 to 12] has won three straight to inch closer to its hopes of a title.

Camp Verde struggled against the Prescott Valley All-Stars on July 6 in round one of the district tournament, losing 17-4.

Since then, however, Camp Verde made quick work of the Dewey-Humboldt All-Stars on Thursday, July 7, defeating them 10-0.

Camp Verde beat rival Sedona All-Stars in the first game of a doubleheader Sunday, July 10, 10-0, then turned around and beat the Prescott North All-Stars in game two, 8-5.

The boys in blue had to wait a few days for the weather to cooperate at Mountain Valley Park in Prescott Valley, which is why they played two Sunday.

“There’s no doubt we played well,” Camp Verde Head Coach Craig Reddell said Sunday after the doubleheader when asked how his team played. “In today’s last game, we had one bad inning, but we did fine after that.”

Against Prescott North, Camp Verde starting pitcher Ezekial Casillas toed the mound, going four innings while allowing five runs.

Casillas struck out six and walked a pair in his four innings, throwing 84 pitches before being removed by Reddell.

Camp Verde scored two runs in each of the first and second innings to lead it 4-0 but the five-run bottom of the fourth for Prescott North chased Casillas from the game.

Beau Bullard took over and threw 19 pitches as the Camp Verde coaching staff looked to save him for their next game, going 1? innings, allowing one hit and striking out two.

Down 5-4, Camp Verde tallied one run in the top of the sixth to tie it 5-5, and the teams needed extra innings to decide things Sunday.

According to Reddell, relief pitcher Patrick Hood could receive player of the game honors, going the final 3? innings on the mound while allowing four hits and no walks while throwing only 26 pitches.

“Patrick [Hood] put a stop to it all and kept us in it. He did a great job,” Reddell said.

Hood’s efforts on the mound allowed Camp Verde to scored three runs in the top of the ninth to take an 8-5 lead, which would be the final.

With the win, Camp Verde improves to 3-1 in the District 10 tournament. Camp Verde continued tournament play Monday, July 11, but results were unavailable at press time.

Taya Smith demonstrates the power of her fastball during a Camp Verde-Verde Valley game at Riverfront Park on June 28. The two teams would meet in the championship, with Camp Verde winning the title.The Camp Verde Majors All-Stars softball team [ages 11 and 12] needed only four innings Thursday, June 30, to prove it was the better team, defeating the Verde Valley All-Stars in the District 10 Arizona Little League All-Stars Tournament championship, 22-2.

Camp Verde beat Verde Valley in the tournament semifinals June 28, 13-1, but made sure to hold the banner Thursday in a one-sided affair.

Kayla Hackett, left, tangles with Verde Valley All-stars pitcher Krista Earl at home plate during a game at Riverfront Park on June 28. The rest of the Camp Verde Majors All-Stars went on to win the District 10 title against Verde Valley, 22-2, on Thursday, June 30. “These girls played like they should. It’s a championship game and they played like it was the championship,” Camp Verde Head Coach Henry Smith said in the dugout Thursday after the game. Smith has coached this group since T-Ball, making it his sixth year coaching in Little League.

With the victory, Camp Verde finished the District 10 tournament with a perfect 4-0 record, having beaten the Prescott Valley All-Stars in round one [2-1], and the Williams All-Stars in the quarterfinals, 13-0.

In the four tournament games, Camp Verde outscored its opponents 50-4.

On Thursday, 12-year-old Dusty Dowdle toed the mound looking to shut down Verde Valley’s high-powered attack.

Verde Valley came into Thursday’s championship with a 2-1 record, having beaten Prescott Valley on June 29, 19-12.

Dowdle showed no fear against the Verde Valley lineup, pitching two strong innings while not allowing a run on no hits while striking out three batters.

In the top of the first, Camp Verde tallied four runs to take a 4-0 lead, then scored nine in the top of the second to give itself a commanding 13-0 advantage.

After her two innings, Dowdle gave way to 12-year-old relief pitcher Taya Smith, who went the remaining two innings.

The first two batters Smith faced recorded base hits in the bottom of the third inning, and both scored, but Smith settled down to allow only two runs on three hits while striking out three on the night.

Leading 14-2, Camp Verde scored eight more runs in the top half of the fourth, making it a 22-2 blowout.

In the fourth, Dowdle singled to left field to bring in two runs, which made it 17-2 at the time to put things out of reach for Verde Valley. Dowdle was 3-4 with a double, a triple, three runs scored and three RBIs in the winning effort.

Smith wasn’t half bad herself, going 2-4 with a double and three runs scored.

“If we play at this level, we can be good,” Henry Smith said.

Next up for Camp Verde is the Arizona Little League State Championships, scheduled to take place in Peoria. A date, time and location for Camp Verde’s first-round game in the state tournament was not released by press time.

Tommy McCarty throws a pitch against the Williams All-Stars batter during a game July 13. McCarty was 4-5 with four runs scored in the championship against the Chino Valley All-Stars on Friday, July 15. The Camp Verde All-Stars went 6-1 overall in the District 10 Arizona Little League All-Stars Tournament at Camp Verde High School to win the title.There’s nothing more disappointing in baseball than a balked-in run to end a game, especially when it’s for a championship.

Standing at third base as the winning run in the District 10 Arizona Little League All-Stars Tournament, Camp Verde Juniors All-Stars player Orlando Machado faked a steal to home plate, causing the Chino Valley All-Stars pitcher to flinch, leading to the balk call.

The flinch cost Chino Valley the game and the tournament title in what was one of the more disappointing endings to a game one could see.

Nevertheless, it made Camp Verde’s comeback complete as the boys in blue celebrated a District 10 title.

Needing every minute of time before curfew, Machado crossed home plate at 12:30 a.m. Saturday, July 16.

The two teams began play at 5 p.m. Friday, July 15, in game one of the championship. Coming from the losers bracket, Camp Verde needed to defeat Chino Valley twice to earn the title.

Camp Verde won game one, 14-12, forcing game two which Camp Verde eventually won, 12-11.

In the beginning of the District 10 tournament, Camp Verde lost to Chino Valley in round one, 3-2. The loss sent Camp Verde to the losers bracket, making them have to win four games just to get back to the championship.

“It was a difficult process,” Camp Verde coach Tom McCarty said.

In game two of the championship, starting pitcher Coy Dugan toed the mound and went 5? innings pitched while giving up seven runs on nine hits while striking out six.

“I was so impressed with Coy [Dugan]. He doesn’t pitch much at all for us. But because of having to play all those games in the losers bracket, we didn’t have any pitching left. So for him to go that long, and for us to win, that was impressive,” McCarty said.

In the fifth, Chino Valley tied it 7-7 after Dugan was removed. McCarty brought in relief pitcher Zach Collins who held serve — barely.

Tied 7-7, Camp Verde scored four runs in the bottom half of the sixth inning to take an 11-7 lead, but Chino Valley came right back against Collins to score four runs in the seventh, tieing it once again at 11-11.

Machado, who was 4-5 with three runs scored, recorded a base hit and made it to third base before scoring the winning run in the bottom of the seventh, making it 12-11, which was the final.

“He really put pressure on their pitcher and he faked him out big time. Orlando [Machado] did a great job in this series,” McCarty said.

Another standout at the plate offensively for Camp Verde was shortstop Tommy McCarty who was 4-5 with four runs scored, hitting an inside the park home run during the four-run rally in the bottom of the sixth. McCarty added a triple as well to his stellar night at the dish.

In the end, Camp Verde was able to raise the banner after an impressive 6-1 record in the District 10 tournament at Camp Verde High School.

Camp Verde was scheduled to begin the Arizona Little League State Tournament on Monday, July 18, at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale. Results were unavailable at press time.

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