CHINO VALLEY – Ty Richmond’s first-half goal from 25-yards out snuck past the outstretched hands of goalkeeper Preston Maynard and the No. 2-ranked Chino Valley boys’ soccer team claimed the 2A Central region title with a 1-0 win over rival Camp Verde on Thursday night.
The goal, Richmond’s sixth of the season, barely fit between Maynard’s hands and the crossbar for the Cougars, which have now won nine straight matches.
“It felt great putting a score on the board. … It was a little intense and shocking, I don’t know how I pulled it off,” Richmond said about his surprising goal in the 24th minute.
Mayard collected 11 saves in the 1-0 loss for No. 6-ranked Camp Verde.
It is the 13th shutout of the season for Chino Valley, which has outscored its opponents 41-0 in the last five contests. The Cougars have two one-goal victories this season, the first coming against this same Cowboys squad Sept. 8 by the final of 2-1.
“Camp Verde plays us extremely tough, they always do. It doesn’t matter what season it is,” first-year Chino Valley head coach Todd Carey said, adding he was impressed with how “quick” his team was to the ball Thursday night.
“We won all the balls in the air, which I was happy with,” Carey said. “We could have finished a bit better on some shots, and given us a little bit more of a lead, but all that matters is we got that one and we got the shutout. It’s a good win for us.”
Chino Valley outshot the rival Cowboys 21-5 on the night.
Longtime Camp Verde head coach David Miller credited his club’s defensive effort against the three-time defending state champion Cougars, which average 7.6 goals per match on the season.
“This is the third time we’ve seen them … tonight it was a great score by one of their guys  minutes into the game,” Miller said. “We’re getting better. We feel like we’re primed and ready for the state playoffs. You don’t get any better unless you play the best, and Chino’s definitely got that record.”
Defender Edgar Sanchez said he expected this type of contest from Camp Verde.
“The whole week, we knew it was Camp Verde. We trained hard coming in,” Sanchez said. “Rolling up to the field, I saw the focused faces of our defense, and I knew we were going to play well together.”
Midway through the second half, Chino Valley standout Arturo Gomez was helped off the field after landing awkwardly on his right knee, but eventually returned.
“He landed on his knee to avoid contact, and as soon as he landed on his knee his whole leg cramped up,” Carey said. “I imagine he might be sore for a day or two on it. … He’ll be fine, he’s a gamer.”
Gomez, a senior looking to win an unprecedented fourth consecutive state championship, was excited to go out with a win at home on senior night.
“This is the senior’s last game at home, and to get a win over Camp Verde, they are a tough team. It’s a great win. We worked as a team tonight,” Gomez said. “This gets us ready for the state tournament.”
Gomez has scored 76 goals over the past two seasons for Chino Valley, including 35 in 2016.
Chino Valley (18-1, 6-0 2A Central) awaits seeding in the 2A conference state playoffs, which begin Friday, Oct. 28.
Camp Verde (14-6, 4-2 2A Central) also awaits seeding for state. The Cowboys are No. 6 in the AIA power points, with only eight teams selected for 2A this season.
Brian M. Bergner Jr. is a sports writer and columnist for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram, Periscope and SoundCloud at @SportsWriter52, or on Facebook at @SportsAboveTheFold. Reach him by phone at 928-445-3333, ext. 1106.