Camp Verde High School football ended the 2017 season on a high note, beating Verde Valley rival Sedona Red Rock High School on the road 30-14 on Friday, Oct. 27.
The Cowboys [3-6, 2-3 Central Region] defeated the Scorpions [0-9, 0-5] for the second year in a row, converting two takeaways into 13 points en route to the victory.
“We’ve been looking forward to it all week, all year honestly,” Cowboys senior running back Ryan Loza said. “Looking forward to beating Sedona on their own field and we found out it was their homecoming and senior night, so it made it even better.”
Camp Verde never trailed, and won the battle at the line of scrimmage throughout.
Cowboys senior running back Ryan Loza, senior quarterback Payton Sarkesian and junior running back Dominiq Bruno carried the ball effectively against the Scorpions. It allowed them to control the clock and the game in the second half, allowing Red Rock five second-half possessions.
“We talked about that before the game started. This is one of those games where we’re a better team than they are, especially up front,” Rhoades said. “If we mess around and let them hang around, in the end they’re going to be tough to beat. We challenged them at halftime and they came out and responded. We were able to move the ball pretty well in the second half.”
But the Scorpions were knocking on the door, making it 21-14 with 2:09 left in the third quarter. Scorpions junior wide receiver Evan Favorite found a streaking senior wide receiver Branaghan Cunningham for a 51-yard touchdown pass on a flea flicker.
Camp Verde was driving downfield and for the second time ran a fake field goal play, this time Bruno getting tackled for a big loss. However Scorpions senior lineman Michael Bryan brought Bruno down with a horse collar tackle, and on the next play Bruno made it 24-14 with a field goal.
The game was put to bed at 30-14 with 2:01 left in the fourth. The Cowboys recovered a fumble at the Red Rock 22 yard line, and three plays later Loza rushed in his third touchdown.
“Our line just dominated their line. We had lanes to run, the defensive line was getting sacks, the offensive line was blocking good. We picked it up in the second half and just ran the ball,” Loza said. “I felt good when I got that third touchdown, I had a big smile on my face. It was a fun game.”
Camp Verde’s first scoring drive also got going from a recovered fumble. Red Rock received the opening kickoff, but a few plays later coughed the ball up.
Bruno kept the series alive with the first fake field goal of the night, a 12-yard run on fourth and eight before gaining seven more on the following play. Loza took the next handoff five yards for the score.
Defensively, the Cowboys got into the Scorpions’ backfield throughout, sacking junior quarterback Jake Brown at least six times. It forced three punts and two turnovers on downs as well as recovering three fumbles.
Sarkesian scored to make it 13-0 with 6:53 left in the second quarter. Red Rock fumbled on its next drive, but the Cowboys gave it back on their ensuing possession.
As a result, the Scorpions took over at Camp Verde’s 20 yard line and scored on an eight-yard pitch play to sophomore running back Jackson Coughlin, cutting the lead to 13-6 with 1:53 left in the first half.
The Cowboys came out of the locker room and made it 21-6 on the opening possession of the second half, Loza again finding the end zone after Sarkesian connected with Bruno on a deep ball down the right sideline.
Seven seniors will depart the Camp Verde team, which has 28 on its roster but dressed just over 20 for the finale: Sarkesian, Loza, Kevin Oothoudt, Rafeal Gonzales, Kieran Chrisman, Bryce Garcia and Miguel Salas.
“The senior class we’re going to miss a bunch. They were the only things that kind of held this thing together,” Cowboys head coach Jerry Rhoades said.