Campo Verde has rebounded since shocking Maricopa loss
Campo Verde football coach Max Ragsdale subtly fist-bumped assistant coaches as his team’s Sept. 14 game against Maricopa wound down. The Coyotes led by six points with 30 seconds to go, and basically just needed to punt to hold on to the win.
One bad snap and a two-yard touchdown run later, the Coyotes were on the wrong end of an improbable 21-20 finish. The loss dropped Campo Verde to 2-2 and out of the chatter regarding the top teams in Division III.
Ragsdale was clear in how he wanted to handle it. Instead of flushing away the loss because of its fluky nature, he told the Coyotes to hold onto the pain of the outcome.
“We told them, ‘Remember how you feel right now and don’t ever forget it,’” Ragsdale said. “I wish they could bottle it up and smell it every once in awhile. If they don’t want to do a drill or work hard at practice, just open it up and smell it.”
Despite the newly available motivation, Ragsdale was concerned. If his team lost its subsequent game against Poston Butte, he thought it would be an uphill battle to keep the players engaged the rest of the way. But the Coyotes responded with a 28-0 win over the Broncos and are now riding a three-game winning streak after a 26-14 victory over Tempe on Friday night.
The defense forced three turnovers against the Buffaloes and has shined all year. Campo Verde’s 80 points allowed is the fifth-fewest in Division III this season.
“They understand their role and they’re physical,” Ragsdale said. “Those are the two biggest things for our defense. They like to hit, and it’s not paralysis by analysis because they understand the scheme.”
It’s tough not to let the mind drift for Campo Verde. If that punt got off, the Coyotes would probably be sitting at 6-1, with their only loss coming in a close game against Williams Field.
Instead, the team is 5-2 but still not a lock for the playoffs. Ragsdale doesn’t think 6-4 will be enough for his team to make the postseason, and he realizes the Maricopa loss may sting even longer if the team can’t finish with two wins in its final three games.
“In the moment in time it happened, I said this was either going to be the best thing to happen for us, or the worst thing,” Ragsdale said. “And it still might be (either one). We’re kind of in limbo.”
But there’s no question the team is playing better now, as the offense is beginning to catch up to the defense. With games against Florence and Vista Grande sandwiched around a tough matchup with Queen Creek, a 2-1 finish is attainable. The Maricopa loss has kept the Coyotes under-the-radar, but they could be a tough early-round matchup for one of the higher seeds come playoff time.
“We’ll just keep plugging away and do what we do,” Ragsdale said.