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Jesus Zorrilla, head coach of the Camp Verde recreational men’s basketball team Suddenlink, believes in family overcoming old team bonds for the Yavapai-Apache Nation league championship Wednesday, July 8.

Bruce Jurecki, of Cottonwood Auto Sales, drives towards the basket in a game against Team Hostile D. The Yavapai-Apache Nation’s men’s basketball league is coming to a close, with the championship to be played Wednesday, July 8.
“We can hang with any of these teams and definitely do some damage,” said Zorrilla, who, at 6 feet, 2 inches tall, is Suddenlink’s biggest man. “Last year, a couple of games were buzzer-beaters. It burns, you know?”

Zorrilla, along with brother Francisco and nephew Javier Perez, leads fifth-place Suddenlink in scoring as they open their postseason against higher-seed Legacy at 6 p.m. Monday, July 6.

Perez’s Camp Verde High School teammates Reyes and Thomas Herrera play for Legacy, which finished fourth out of 10 teams in the two-month regular season.

“Last year, we got fourth [place], but each year we seem to get a little better,” Zorrilla said. “Our conditioning is better this year. We’re more together; we’re starting to find each other more.”

Zorrilla, who plays with just seven other players not only in games but twice a week in full-court, four-on-four scrimmages, hopes it doesn’t come to that against Cottonwood Auto Body, the top team in the league.

Regardless of the outcome of their make-up game Monday, June 29, if they can both make it through their quarterfinal games Monday, July 6, the teams will face off in the semifinals.

For the full story and playoff schedule, please see the Wednesday, July 1, issue of the Camp Verde Journal.

Although a seven-on-seven football loss Thursday, June 25, reminded Camp Verde High School head coach Steve Darby of his program’s youth, winning a Big Man challenge over Flagstaff High School continued to bolster his confidence in it.

Camp Verde High School hosted a seven-on-seven football camp this summer: a two-hand touch football game with seven players on each team. Cowboy senior Kyle Little catches a pass and makes significant yardage.
“This is the best year I’ve had as far as [summer] success,” he said after wrapping up competitive seven-on-sevens with what he considered his junior varsity, which went 1-2 at Payson High School. “That’s OK.  We knew we were going to get beat, so we took a lot of our young guys and started them on varsity. We were trying to correct mistakes, so it was good for them.

“Some of these teams perform incredibly in seven-on-sevens. Then you get them in pads and they’re terrible. Our athletic ability’s a little better than the last two years.”

That has been revealed the most in June through the skill and speed of assistant coach Fernando Diaz’s linemen.

For the full story, please see the Wednesday, July 1, issue of the Camp Verde Journal.

Sean Williams just keeps winning.

Cottonwood Clippers swimmers finish a morning practice after returning from the Kingman Invitational meet on June 27. The Clippers are gearing up for their annual fundraiser, the Mile Swim, which will start Monday, July 6.
The Mingus Union High School incoming senior took home his third high-points trophy in two weeks Saturday,
June 27, to top 24 Cottonwood Clippers swimmers at the Kingman Invitational.

Williams, 17, scored 36 points to lead all 15- to 18-year-old boys from five swimming teams, while MUHS sophomore Gunner Tillemans scored 27 points to take second among the 13- and 14-year-olds.

Williams finished first in four events and led a mixed 200-yard freestyle relay team that also included fellow 17-year-old Lucas Smith, 16-year-old Ashlyn Wingfield and Skylar Mohr, 15.

Along with fellow senior Caleb Furey, Williams also helps coach 11-year-old Clippers like Dorian Boyd, who won the 50-yard butterfly and freestyle in 42.51 and 35.12 seconds, respectively.

“But I’m really good at the 50-yard breaststroke and I got fourth,” she said. “I think that’s what brought me down. My dive was good, but my streamline was too long. I had an arch underwater.”

Boyd also was runner-up in the 200-yard individual medley on her way to third overall in her age group.

“Last year, I took second,” she said. “So I was a little upset with myself. Coach Sean, Coach Caleb help give me my drive.”

As does 12-year-old Zoey Arwine, whose prowess in the 50-yard butterfly did not travel to Kingman. Lyla Thompson, Izzy Hoffman and Ashley Doerksen were all top-10 age group finishers in her place.

“I definitely look up to Zoey in the butterfly,” Boyd said. “She’s one of the main reasons I want to work on it more.”

The next-highest points scorer for the Clippers was Joseph Calhoon, 13, who finished sixth in his age group. He also led another mixed 200-yard freestyle relay team that also included Doerksen, Tillemans and Mohr’s 13-year-old sister, Emily.

In all, 11 Clippers would finish among the top 10 high-points finishers against swimmers from Bullhead City, Lake Havasu City and Needles, Calif., going into their primary fundraiser beginning Monday, July 6, at the Cottonwood Outdoor Pool — the Mile Swim.

For the full story, please see the Wednesday, July 1, issue of the Cottonwood Journal Extra.

Two Riverfront Park softball marathons yielded three drained but happy winners Thursday and Monday, June 25 and 29.

Red Rock Dental celebrates its women’s B-League title after a victory over the Kare Bears, Thursday,  June 25. Top row, from left: head coach Autumn Naegle, assistant coach Marty White, Quin Thompson, Vickie Gann, Danielle White and Meagan Hughes; bottom row, from left: Lora Rogers, Taylor Mahlman, Mindy Zarlingo, Juliana Sarevo and Lisa Drake.
“It was a long day at work,” quipped Autumn Naegel, head coach of Red Rock Dental, which had to beat the Kare Bears back-to-back to win the Cottonwood Parks and Recreation department’s B League for women. “By the end of the night, we had played four straight hours of softball. We were exhausted.”

Particularly pitcher Meagan Hughes, wife of the sponsor’s owner, who hurled all 14 innings of Red Rock’s 16-10 and 17-7 wins at Riverfront Park. The temperature at the start of the first game, which Red Rock had just 10 players healthy for, was 108 degrees, Naegle said.

“We had no substitutes to go to,” she said. “She was definitely the player of the games.

“We had four people injured, so all the players couldn’t run. Those who were not injured were all running double time for the injured people.”

The Baby Mamas clawed back in similar fashion to win the women’s A League. After their second loss of the season, both to the Pain Crushers, sent them to the consolation bracket, head coach Lizbeth Fullbright’s team crushed back June 25 with 8-1 and 14-4 victories.

In terms of degree of difficulty, however, the most stunning comeback came in the men’s league playoffs Monday, June 29. After suffering just their second loss of the season in the first round, falling to HDH 1, co-sponsored by Angies House, 18-6, Mike’s 12-Pack rallied from a another 12-run deficit in the seventh inning to beat Diablo, 20-19.

“We finished with a walk-off grand slam after time expired,” head coach Tarrin Walz said. “Total team effort. No one gave up and everyone kept playing hard.”

Walz’s team will play HDH 1 a fifth time this summer for the championship and rubber match of the season series. The game will begin at 7:15 p.m. on Softball Field 1 at Riverfront Park.

For the full story and men's and women's league scores, please see the Wednesday, July 1, issue of the Cottonwood Journal Extra.

In the span of a year, another kind of wildfire in the Verde Valley swept through its sports landscape.

George Werner
At this time last summer, two Camp Verde athletes on the cusp of their final years of their high school careers were preparing to make history for two highly successful programs — girls basketball and wrestling.

In Cottonwood, Mingus Union High School was undergoing a transition to new coaching leadership in boys basketball, boys tennis and both swimming teams.

Sedona, too, was transitioning to new head coaches in charge of its high school football and both basketball programs. At the same time, head coach Manny Arias had just introduced the first professional sports team, the Sedona FC Strikers.

The spirit of 1776 — feelings of excitement, change and progress — was definitely in the air.

For the full column, please see the Wednesday, July 1, issues of the Camp Verde Journal and Cottonwood Journal Extra.

Javier Perez, Camp Verde High School’s prolific shooting guard, prepared for his senior season by scoring more than 20 points in three games June 12 and 13 as the Cowboys have won six basketball games in Flagstaff, San Diego and Sedona.

Javier Perez, an incoming senior guard for Camp Verde High School, is a big reason why the Cowboys are undefeated through Tuesday, June 23, in their summer games against Sedona Red Rock High School. Perez has scored more than 20 points in three of the six summer wins for the Cowboys.
“Jarvis, he’s like LeBron,” head coach Dan Wall said. “He’ll score 40 and the team will score 46. He does a lot on the court; we run our offense through him.”

Depending on the results of the Cowboys’ final two basketball games Tuesday, June 23, at Sedona Red Rock High School, CVHS has a chance to go .500 and win half of its 16 summer games.

“Right now, the goal is not winning or losing games,” Wall said. “The goal is to be ready to win those games in December and January.”

If their two games with SRRHS or the first game of their round-robin tournament at Point Loma Nazarene University are any indication, the Cowboys are ready to win the games when they count.

For the full story, please see the Wednesday, June 24, issue of the Camp Verde Journal.

Utilityman Dave DeWitt knocked in son Chad on a walk-off triple Monday, June 22, as Mike’s 12-Pack entered the Cottonwood men’s softball league playoffs with its 16th win, 19-18.

Tarrin Walz, head coach and third baseman for Mike’s 12-Pack, gets a solid hit in the Cottonwood Recreation Center men’s softball regular season finale at Riverfront Park. Mike’s would beat HDH 1, co-sponsored by Angies House, for its 16th win and top seed in the three-day men’s league playoffs, which begin June 24.
Not bad for a bunch of old guys.

“We’ve got all kinds of old people on the team,” said head coach Tarrin Walz, 46, after the second win of the season over second-place HDH 1, co-sponsored by Angies House. “Three weeks ago, we run-ruled those young guys [who] practice six days a week and play 350 games a year, supposedly.”

As the top seed in the seven-team men’s softball league, presented by Cottonwood’s Parks and Recreation department, Walz and his 12-pack of players will enjoy a bye to the second round of the three-day playoffs, which begin June 24, at Riverfront Park.

“I’ve been playing third base for the last four years,” Walz said. “I’m the only one dumb enough to play it. I’m pretty sure that’s why I was selected to play in the first place.”

But although the team is sponsored by Walz’s rehabilitation center, every player wears, on the back of his jersey, the last name and former 12-Pack number of Mike “Chuck” Zunitch, who was killed in an automobile accident in Camp Verde last year.

“We play for Mike,” Walz said. “Everything’s for [him]. What a quality individual he was. He’d give the shirt off his own back for you. He’ll be with us forever.”

For more photos, final men's and women's league standings, playoff schedules and the full story, please see the Wednesday, June 24, issue of the Cottonwood Journal Extra.

Close, but no win — yet.

Camp Verde High School has been hosting Big Man and seven-on-seven football games for the past two weeks. Seven-on-seven games such as this one June 17 against Chino Valley High School are two-hand touch, instead of tackle. The Cowboys would ultimately win that game but fall by a touchdown to Flagstaff High School.
Head coach Steve Darby and staff have finished runner-up with 20 Camp Verde High School football players the past two Wednesdays at home seven-on-seven and Big Man competitions.

In two weeks of games of skill and strength, the Cowboys have fallen short to Flagstaff by a touchdown and the Bradshaw Mountain High School varsity by a point, beating four other high schools at Sam Hammerstrom Field.

“We’re definitely ahead of where we were offensively and defensively the last two seasons,” Darby said. “I’m pretty disappointed in the lack of interest, but this core group is pretty solid and unique in the fact that they’re real coachable — they listen to what you say and put it into play.”

CVHS will also host Chino Valley, Coconino, Sedona Red Rock and Williams high schools in a final attempt Wednesday, June 24, to be the fastest and the strongest among high schools in north central Arizona. Games begin at 6 p.m.

Developing depth among players who will need to play both offense and defense, if not on special teams, has been the preoccupation for Darby this off-season.

“We’re working hard on developing backup roles for a lot of kids, if needed,” he said. “Bradshaw has a school four times our size and easily formed three teams with 125 kids — no one went both ways.

“I wish I had that problem. There’s just no way we could do that.”

For the full story, please see the Wednesday, June 24, issue of the Camp Verde Journal.

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