CHINO VALLEY — The Northwest Christian football team showed why it is undefeated in League 3A West on Friday night.
The Crusaders scored the first three times they had the ball, and rolled to a 42-7 win over Chino Valley.
Northwest Christian won its fourth straight and improves to 7-2 overall and 4-0 in the league, while Chino Valley falls to 4-5 and 1-3.
“That team (Northwest Christian), unless it gets royally upset, is going to make it to the state semifinals or finals,” Chino Valley coach Wade Krug said. “They are easily one of the top three or four teams in the state.”
Unlike Wickenburg, which only ran the ball against Chino Valley in a lopsided 61-21 victory last week, Northwest Christian featured a balanced attack. The Crusaders mixed the run and pass with success.
“They are very diversified,” Krug said. “And they just ran their base offense against us. I’ve seen them do a lot of other things on film. They just kept it simple tonight.”
Chino Valley didn’t score until late in the fourth quarter, and it was fitting that senior tight end Colton Sandberg caught a 1-yard touchdown pass for the Cougars’ only score on Senior Night. Running back Mike Paulus nearly scored on the previous play, giving Chino Valley first-and-goal from the 1 on the left hash mark. Sandberg cut across the middle and curled into the right corner of the end zone, and quarterback Seth Jelovic lofted the ball about 20 yards for the score.
“It was nice to actually score on Senior Night, considering who we were playing,” Sandberg said.
Sandberg said Northwest Christian was easily the best team Chino Valley has played all season.
“They are well-disciplined,” Sandberg said. “They know what they are doing.”
Northwest Christian’s defense was also dominant, holding Chino Valley to just three first downs with two of them coming late in the fourth quarter.
Northwest Christian set the tone immediately at the start of the first quarter. The Crusaders took the opening kickoff and drove 82 yards in 12 plays, capped off by a 2-yard TD run up the middle by Thomas Poe with 6:24 left in the first quarter. Running back Aren Van Hofwegen was a workhorse on the drive, carrying the ball on 8 of the 12 plays. His biggest gain was a 26-yard run from midfield down to the Cougars’ 24.
Chino Valley lost 20 yards on its first possession, and Northwest Christian used up the rest of the clock in the first quarter before scoring on the first play of the second quarter. Dylan Smith caught a flare pass on the right sideline and raced 40 yards for a touchdown.
The Crusaders added another touchdown in the second quarter, scoring on their third straight possession on a 1-yard plunge by Jarin Davis.
Chino Valley struggled offensively in the first half, picking up just one first down on a 51-yard run on a quarterback draw by Jelovic with 3:21 remaining in the half.
The following senior players from Chino Valley were recognized before the kickoff in their final home game: Sandberg, Darren Phipps, TJ Murphy, Aaron Morgan, Matthew Rios-Jakeway, Dylan Smith, Jonathan Ayala, Cameron Morgan, Rocky Darby, Elijah Rios, Cristian Gonzalez and Alex Millan.