Photo by Ken Sain.
Chino Valley High School senior Arturo Gomez ended his remarkable prep tenure scoring both goals to lead the Cougars to a 2-0 victory over previously-undefeated Blue Ridge, handing the Cougars their fourth straight Class 2A state championship on Saturday at Campo Verde High School in Gilbert.
It is Chino Valley’s eighth boys soccer state championship in school history, but the first under rookie head coach Todd Carey.
“I knew we had it in us, I knew we were a good team,” Carey said. “They played hard, they left everything out on the field.”
Gomez’s first goal came on a penalty kick after Blue Ridge was called for a hand ball inside the box with 1:05 remaining in the first half.
He added the insurance goal for Chino Valley (21-1) on a breakaway, getting open past the Blue Ridge defense and easily slipped the ball past the goalkeeper with 22:29 left in the second half.
“It feels great, to know I’ll end my high school career as four-time state champions,” said Gomez, who was named the state’s boys soccer player of the year last year by the Arizona Republic. “It’s an amazing feeling.”
Blue Ridge (22-1) continued to press in the second half and had a couple of strong scoring opportunities, but the Chino defense, led by sophomore sweeper Jonathan Gomez Beltran, held.
“Johnny did a phenomenal job,” Carey said.
The victory avenged Chino Valley’s only loss this year, a 2-1 loss to Blue Ridge on Sept. 30. Chino Valley won the Arizona Invitational Soccer League state titles in 1990 and 1991, and won the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s state crowns in 2000 and 2008, before winning the last four (2013-2016).
Carey has now won state titles for Chino Valley as a player, assistant coach, and now head coach. He replaced Jim Clark, who had been the only boys soccer coach in school history until he retired before this season.
“As a player, as soon as the game starts your nerves are gone,” Carey said. “As a coach, you’re nervous the entire game, it’s terrifying.”
The three seniors that started Saturday’s game end their careers with four state titles in four years.
“It’s unbelievable what they’ve pulled off,” Carey said. “I’ve been telling the underclassmen don’t take this for granted, a state championship. It kind of seems like the norm, going to a state championship game, it’s not normal. They need to embrace it, they need to have fun with it, and they did.”