Camp Verde High School’s No.3-seeded boys soccer team suffered a 1-1 loss to No. 6 Show Low High School after penalty kicks [5-4] in the first round of the Arizona Interscholastic Association Conference 2A tournament on Wednesday, Oct. 25.
Cowboys head coach David Miller always carries a yellow sheet of paper that has all of his players on it. Heading into the game, he was without four key starters, including two defenders and senior goalkeeper Preston Maynard.
Nontheless the Cowboys and Cougars battled end-to-end for 100 minutes before going to the decisive spot kicks.
“I thought it was a great game,” Miller said. “It ebbed and flowed, we had opportunities to score and they had opportunities to score. I couldn’t be prouder of the boys we had.”
Show Low dominated possession throughout, not by passing and skill but rather because of the Cowboys’ formation and tactics. They played a 5-4-1 the entire time, packing in defenders and midfielders to shield the hobbled defense.
“We’re so inexperienced in the defense, that was part of covering for it. At any one time I had two freshmen on the field in defense throughout the entire game. The only way I could get defensive coverage was to supplement it with extra players,” Miller said. “We were trying to pull out some magic, trying to hide some players around the way and we just were undergunned.”
Offensively, senior Wesley Loveall played as a lone striker. The Camp Verde midfield sent long balls up field or tried to carry along the sidelines and find him or senior midfielder Nate Schultz in space.
As a result, Camp Verde was forced to defend the majority of the time, and the Cougars applied pressure early; they had two corners inside of the first two minutes.
With just over 23 minutes left in the first half, Show Low senior forward Taylor Clark found an opening off of a throw in.
Cowboys senior goalkeeper Nick Daniels, between the pipes for a suspended Maynard after his red card in the season finale, rushed out and forced Clark’s shot over the crossbar.
The Cougars got on the scoreboard a minute later. Daniels again left his line and between a cluster of players Show Low sophomore forward Jonathan Flores knocked the ball in, which appeared to have not been ruled a goal the first time but was the second.
With 16 minutes left, the hosts tied things up. Loveall received the ball outside the right edge of the penalty box and dribbled past a pair of defenders before being brought down, earning a penalty.
Loveall converted the maximum punishment against the Cougars defense.
Camp Verde had another chance through Loveall with just under nine minutes left. Sophomore midfielder Jordan Littlefield whipped in a cross from the right to which Loveall glanced a header towards goal, but also to Show Low junior goalkeeper Roper Howard.
In all, the Cowboys struggled to capitalize.
“We didn’t have trouble breaking them down as much as we couldn’t get the ball where we needed,” Schultz said. “I was fast enough to get to the corner and get a cross in, so it was just a matter of placement.”
Daniels’ role grew in the second half as the Cougars had more threatening chances. He came out to collect multiple crosses, but with 36 minutes left missed one that fell to Show Low freshman forward Carter Long, who shot wide of the post.
Four minutes later Clark had the best chance, pulling a left-footed shot just wide of the far post after a chipped ball beat the Cowboys defense.
“He did a fantastic job, he stopped some big plays and it was an unfortunate goal they had,” Miller said. “I couldn’t ask anything more from him and I’m just really proud of his effort.”
Camp Verde got lucky with 29 minutes left. In a tight situation, a Cowboys defender used his foot to pass the ball back to Daniels, who picked it up. It would have constituted an indirect free kick at the spot of the foul, well inside the penalty box, but the Cougars hardly protested the no-call either.
Show Low missed a pair shots later on, and the game went to overtime.
Neither team had a clear-cut chance in the first 10-minute period. Cowboys sophomore defender Benji Perez mailed an inswinging ball into Loveall who again headed to Howard.
With 1:43 left, and penalty kicks on their mind, the Cougars swapped goalkeepers, putting junior Conner Anderson in, who had been playing midfield throughout.
Show Low went first in the shootout, scoring four of the five to Daniels’ left, the other going high to his right.
For Camp Verde, Loveall stepped up and scored first, but sophomore midfielder Manuel Interiano missed to Anderson’s left. Schultz and Jones scored theirs, and Daniels got a hand to the Cougars’ fifth but could not keep it out.
Miller will now look down at his yellow paper and cross six names off of it, and has nine months to prepare for next season.
“We’ve already had three or four of the young men ask when the offseason starts,” he said. “It’s exciting to see how the young men grow every year.”