Originally Published: September 29, 2012 12:44 a.m.
CHINO VALLEY - Veteran Chino Valley football coach Chuck Apap knew that it would take him and his staff some time to develop a green Cougars team in 2012.
After all, Chino entered the fall season with less than a handful of returning varsity players and a slew of starters who had never even played the sport until this year.
On Friday, the rebuilding project continued, as the gritty, hard-working Cougars lost their second straight game, falling to Bullhead City Mohave, 26-12, on Homecoming.
"We've just got to take care of the little things, and we're going to get better," said Apap, a varsity coach of 40-plus years who's in his first season at CVHS. "We're going to do everything that's right."
With the setback, the Cougars' record slid to 1-5 overall with four contests remaining on their schedule, including three on the road.
Mohave improved to 2-4.
Despite Friday's loss, Division IV No. 28-ranked Chino Valley really didn't have much to complain about with its performance.
Playing against a bigger program in D-III No. 32 Mohave, the Cougars held their own deep into the fourth quarter.
In fact, Chino scored 12 straight points after falling behind 7-0 with about 9-1/2 minutes left in the first quarter.
On their opening possession the Cougars chewed up more than 6 minutes of the clock with a 12-play, 79-yard scoring drive.
Chino senior running back Conner Richberger, who rushed for a game-high 160 yards on 25 carries, ultimately reached pay dirt on a 2-yard scoring scamper.
Trailing 7-6 after a failed 2-point conversion, the Cougars opened the second quarter with another time-consuming possession and snared its only lead of the game.
On fourth-and-9, quarterback Ben Goermar found leaping wideout Tory Marciel in the middle of the field near the goal line for a 30-yard scoring strike and a 12-7 edge after another failed 2-point conversion.
"We definitely wanted to score first - that was like our main goal to give us some confidence," Goermar said. "In the past, if we don't score first or they get ahead of us, then we kind of fall apart. So that score was definitely good and that's why we stayed in the game."
Chino Valley appeared to have gained a bit of momentum after that touchdown, but a fumble on the Cougars' ensuing possession led to the go-ahead score for Mohave and a 13-12 advantage with 2:38 left until halftime.
The trouble for the Cougars was that the Thunderbirds tacked on another TD on a quick drive to end the half. QB Keenan White hit running back Kyler White on a 27-yard scoring strike with 27 seconds left until intermission for a 19-12 Mohave edge.
"They're a good team - I'll give them that," Marciel said of the T-birds. "But some of our players were getting down after they scored on us and they were up by a touchdown. We're trying hard, and that's all we can do."
Down by only a TD at the half, Chino Valley opened the third quarter with a lengthy drive. However, the Cougars had the wind sucked out of their sails when they failed to convert on fourth down deep in Mohave territory at the 28-yard line.
"When Tory scored, I was so excited over that," said Richberger, referring to his teammate's go-ahead second-quarter TD. "Coming into the second half, I don't think we had the intensity that we had in the first half."
A similar situation occurred midway through the fourth quarter when Chino reached midfield but could not convert on another fourth down. The Thunderbirds would ice the game on its next drive, as running back Andres Perez scored his second TD of the evening with 2:15 remaining to put Mohave ahead 26-12.
The Cougars hit the road next week when they travel to the Walkup Skydome at Northern Arizona University to battle Flagstaff High. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.