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Sun, Dec. 08

Cougars fall short in home finale 33-20
Prep Football

Chino Valley quarterback Jayden Smith (8) looks to throw the ball downfield as the Cougars take on River Valley on Friday, Oct. 25, 2019, in Chino Valley. (Aaron Valdez/Courier, file)

Chino Valley quarterback Jayden Smith (8) looks to throw the ball downfield as the Cougars take on River Valley on Friday, Oct. 25, 2019, in Chino Valley. (Aaron Valdez/Courier, file)

CHINO VALLEY — Going into Friday’s game, Chino Valley football was dwelling in last place in the 3A West. But being that this was their last showing at Cougar Stadium this season, the team still found a way to make things interesting.

By the looks of it, the No. 31-ranked Cougars will not qualify for the state playoffs but obviously, they still want to finish the season strong. And while Chino Valley did have its fair share of big moments on Friday, they were still ousted 33-20 by third-place River Valley.

“It’s hard to describe what we are as a team right now but the kids played their hearts out,” said Chino Valley head coach Wade Krug. “These kids play at 100 miles an hour, they don’t give up, they claw, they fight their way back into games and we just happen to not get the breaks when we needed to get the breaks.”

With senior night in full swing as well, the senior crew of Trevor Gianfrancesco, Tyler Carey and Jacob Gilpin all posted strong performances that kept the Cougars afloat. However, the biggest play of the night turned out to be a consolation touchdown by J.R. Willingham.

As River Valley held a 33-12 lead with two minutes left in regulation, Carey – who replaced starting quarterback Jayden Smith at halftime - lobbed a 35-yard floater to an outstretched Willingham. The senior wide receiver then ran an extra 20 yards to the end zone, sending the home crowd into a frenzy as if it were the winning touchdown.

“Everything was going through my mind and I just wanted to make a play with senior night, last game at home and wanted to hype the crowd up one last time,” Willingham said. “I’ve been wanting that and needing that. It was awesome.”

Ultimately, the Cougars struggled mightily to contain River Valley’s run game, which was led by running back Samuel Zegler-evans and Zack Hammett. The duo torched Chino Valley’s defense as they both made big runs that led to scoring plays for the Dust Devils.

River Valley took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter and never surrendered it for the rest of the contest.

In the second quarter, the Cougars cut their deficit to one when Gianfrancesco blocked a punt on River Valley’s side of the field.

Gianfrancesco’s efforts gave Smith the opportunity to cut around the defense the very next play and score the Cougars’ first TD of the night. Their second touchdown came when Dante DeBono found daylight up the middle of the defense and ran from near half field to the end zone.

What did hurt the Cougars was that they botched their first couple of field-goal attempts for the extra points. Poetically, they did convert one after Willingham scored the final touchdown.

UP NEXT

Even though it might not have much playoff implications, the Cougars will look to upset defending champs and No. 3-ranked Northwest Christian (7-1, 3-0 West) on the road Friday, Nov. 1. This will be the final game of the season.

“[Northwest Christian is] a great team. We are just going to go out this last week, we’re going to be focused, we’re going to get our stuff done, but we’re going to make sure we have fun this week,” Krug said.

Aaron Valdez is a sports reporter for The Daily Courier of Prescott News Network. Follow him on Twitter at @Valaaron_94. Email avaldez@prescottaz.com or call 928-445-3333, ext. 2031.

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