Five days after they clashed for the first time this season at the Chino Cup, county rivals Chino Valley and Camp Verde faced off on the boys’ soccer pitch again Thursday night at the Cougars’ football stadium.
Four-time defending small-schools state champion Chino Valley, a 2-1 winner over the Cowboys in the Cup championship Sept. 2, breathed a sigh of relief in this power-point match, notching another narrow 2-1 victory.
Despite playing without star senior forward Elijah Desmond and standout junior defender Johnny Gomez-Beltran, the Cougars extended their winning streak to 19 games, dating back to the 2016 season. Chino Valley hasn’t lost since last Sept. 30 in a 2-1 setback to state runner-up Blue Ridge at the Old Pueblo Classic in Tucson. They have not lost a power-point match since Sept. 24, 2015, in a 3-2 decision to Show Low at home.
On an evening that Chino Valley received its 2016 2A state championship rings, the Cougars stayed undefeated on the young 2017 campaign at 6-0 overall and 2-0 in power-point games. Camp Verde dropped to 4-2, 1-1. The Cougars beat the Cowboys four times in 2016, including a 2-1 win in the state semifinals last October.
Chino Valley entered Thursday’s rivalry match by outscoring the opposition a whopping 33-1.
After Tuesday, that mark moved to 35-2. Senior forward/midfielder Matthew Rios-Jakeway scored the go-ahead goal and added an assist to lead the Cougars. Freshman forward Angel Sanchez also registered a goal.
“We had plenty of opportunities to score, and some really good ones,” Cougars coach Todd Carey said. “First half, we had some silly offsides that kind of hurt us, but we had five or six good chances to put the ball in the back of the net.”
Less than five minutes into the match, Sanchez dropped in a 5-yard shot past Cowboys goalie Preston Maynard. Camp Verde’s Nate Schultz tied the match at 1-1 with 13:52 to go in the first half on an assist from Brandon Cruz.
But only 24 seconds later, Rios-Jakeway answered, blistering in a shot from close range for the 2-1 lead that stood for the final 53-plus minutes of regulation.
Chino Valley struggled offensively in the second half without Desmond, who’s expected to return for the Cougars’ next match Saturday, Sept. 16. Gomez-Beltran is recovering from a foot injury, but the defense he leads stood its ground.
“Obviously their [Cowboys’] defense is good, but we just kept wasting opportunities – playing through-balls too far or just not containing the midfield and then passing it in between to get our goals,” Rios-Jakeway said. “That’s how we got our first goal, but we just couldn’t do that in the second half. I guess it was just more of an intense game toward the end.”
Added Carey about the second half, “We kind of dropped in a little bit and didn’t possess the ball. My hat’s off to the Camp Verde sweeper [Schultz], who does a phenomenal job. He’s a terrific defender.”
Cougars senior reserve defender Ethan Christie made the defensive play of the match with 6:50 remaining in the second half, blocking a Cowboys shot in front of the net after keeper Abe Gamez had moved up to make a play on the ball.
“I just saw my keeper coming out of the net, and there was nobody else behind him, so I figured I just gotta get back in the goal,” Christie said. “I just stayed calm, cool and collected.”
The Cougars and Cowboys, members of the 2A Central region, will play for the third time Oct. 19 in the regular season/region finale at Camp Verde.
“We’re still developing leaders on the field,” Cowboys coach David Miller said. “Once we get that solved, then we’ll solve the mystery of Chino Valley.”
Chino Valley plays at 1 p.m. Sept. 16, when it visits St. Johns.
Camp Verde travels to Payson Sept. 12. The Cowboys routed Payson, 8-1, in their season opener Aug. 29.
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