GILBERT — Camp Verde High boys soccer’s unexpected season came to an end Friday afternoon in the state semifinals.
No. 2 Chino Valley beat the No. 3 Cougars 3-0 at Gilbert Williams Field. Camp Verde was without leading scorer and sophomore forward Gary Ortega, who got injured late in the quarterfinals.
“I just thought it wasn’t our day,” said Camp Verde head coach David Miller. “We came down, we played hard, we had the right attitude and we just couldn’t seem to put it together. We missed our leading scorer today, he got hurt in Show Low game, Gary Ortega was out and so we tried to play around that and we did a good job but we just missed some offense You can’t score 17,18 goals in the season and have that taken out of your offense but no excuses, they only put 11 men on the field, we matched up with that I thought we did well. All three of their scores were break aways and we just left some holes.”
Chino Valley jumped ahead 2-0 and then after Camp Verde had most of the possession and chances in the second half, scored a third late.
“I thought we played really good in the first half,” said Chino Valley head coach Todd Carey. “I thought we could have put in two or three more goals in that half but unfortunately we just didn’t and Camp Verde’s good, they’re very good defensively, they got some good athletes there. So it was good to get the two goals that we did to get some room to work with. The second half I think we kinda got into a little funk where we were just kinda sending through balls.”
Chino Valley sophomore forward Orlando Santoyo opened up the scoring. Then Chino Valley junior Angel Sanchez scored the last two.
“The first half I think we completely dominated,” Sanchez said. “Then the second half a bit shaky but we were still there, we were still in the game.”
Miller agreed with the old adage that it is difficult to beat the same team twice in one season.
“It is, it’s tough,” Miller said. “We had our chances, that was the whole point, we knew we had our chances, we just didn’t get the finishes and it’s tough to beat them. They’re a good team and we enjoy playing each other and we play each other strong all the time and the boys know each other and I think that’s what we like about the competition. I like the coach, he coaches the same style of game that I do, we love to play those guys.”
Central Region champions Camp Verde beat the Cougars 2-1 in the regular season game. However Carey said the motivation to beat the Cowboys helped them in the tournament.
“It kept us from not overlooking them,” Carey said. “Camp Verde’s always good, it’s always a hard, hard battle for us. It’s always a hard game against Camp Verde, so we never really over look them but it kept us really focused on them and not looking at tomorrow before we got there.”
Camp Verde finished the season 11-3, 7-0 in region play, 5-0 at home and 6-2 in road games.
“The season as a whole was above expectations, I think nobody expected us as young as we are to do as well as we did and what helped us is we’re really good on the road,” Miller said. “We had eight away games and we went 6-2 in away, so we’re road warriors but we were able to hold service at home and play to our advantage on our home field. Our motto this year was ‘refuse to lose’ and we only lost three, pretty good season I’d say. There was a lot of teams out there that would love to have that record, I love to have that opportunity, not a better bunch of boys. The five seniors I’m losing this year have all been great kids, they all played for me for four years and they all have been a great asset to the program, they’re leaders in the school, leaders in the community, it’s been a pleasure to have them, we’ll miss them but cool for me, we’re returning 27 players. All I can say is we knocked on the door (Saturday), next year we kick it down.”
This was Camp Verde’s first final four appearance since 2016 but they expect to be back next year.
“Postseason is regular season for Camp Verde,” Miller said. “We always say that the championship runs through Camp Verde because we’re always there and that’s what we pride ourselves on, being in the top eight to top four. Every year we shoot to be a top four team and to make sure that the kids take pride in the program. We got a long tradition and that’s what helps out, the kids see it when the alumni come by to watch the games, they understand It’s a great program, it’s great to be involved with it. It’s great to have the kids in Camp Verde, the kids look forward to it, it’s great.”