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Sat, Feb. 22

GCHS downs Ash Fork, Sedona; clinches first-ever spot in playoffs<br>

At the end of regulation, the Phantoms and Scorpions were knotted in a 1-1 tie. Sedona thought it was time to go home, but Grand Canyon knew Arizona Interscholastic Association rules call for two 10-minute overtime periods.

“AIA rules say regular season and playoff games shall have two 10-minute overtimes,” said Hunter, who had the rulebook on hand at the game. “One referee said he would call a draw. I said no, let’s look it up and get this right.”

Sure enough, the rule was right there in black and white. Coincidentally, the same situation against the same school materialized a few years ago. Although the rule was also in effect then, the game was called a tie at the end of regulation.

The game’s outcome was very important in the 1A-3A North soccer standings. If Grand Canyon would’ve tied or lost the game, the Phantoms would finish no higher than third place in the standings. That’s means a road game in the first round of the playoffs. But with a win, Grand Canyon still has a shot at first or second place and a home match in the opening round.

The game was close throughout. Sedona had a chance to take the early lead on a penalty shot, but goalkeeper Jesse Hunter made a save to keep the score 0-0. In the 18th minute, the Phantoms found the net on a header goal by Ryan Eck.

On the play, Miles Hunter threw the ball in with Eck in position. The ball actually went off Eck’s face when he scored.

The 1-0 Phantom advantage held up until the final minutes of the match. Sedona’s Mike Sanders scored with only seven minutes remaining in regulation. Sanders sent a screamer into the net from about 30 yards out.

Would Grand Canyon fold down the stretch? Not this time. Grand Canyon came right back and remained aggressive on offense. Still, regulation ended in the 1-1 tie.

In the first overtime, both teams had chances to take the lead. But good defense ruled and the score remained the same. In the second overtime, the minutes wound down and it appeared the schools would end up in a tie after all. But a whistle blew in the final minute of the OT when Ryne Boone was elbowed in the back.

Tempy Walker took the penalty shot and Sedona’s keeper made a save. But the ball was not secured and on the rebound, Walker kicked it right back into the net. Grand Canyon had its victory.

After the game, there was a disturbing scene when Sedona’s coach went after one of the game officials. School board members Chuck Wahler and Jon Streit, along with assistant athletic director Bonnie Haven, had to get in between the coach and official.

Sedona’s assistant athletic director was present and announced the school would protest the game.

As far as the effort on the field, it was one of the best ever by the Phantoms. On defense, Grand Canyon came up with a stellar performance, led by senior Chas Iacampo.

“He was a force by attacking out of the back and really hustling and getting back on defense,” Coach Hunter said. “He had an incredible game.”

Jacob Wahler, Kevin Beckerleg and Matthew Beckerleg were others on the defensive backfield that stifled Sedona all day. At keeper, Jesse Hunter made 13 saves.

The top three teams in the conference have one loss. Because Grand Canyon and Chino Valley tied earlier this year, the Scorpions still have a half-game lead. Chino and Sedona are scheduled to meet today and the Phantoms still have to travel to Sedona for a match.

If Chino wins today’s game over Sedona, then the Scorpions clinch first place. If Sedona beats Chino, that keeps Grand Canyon’s hopes for first place alive. Under the latter scenario, the winner of the Oct. 25 Sedona-Grand Canyon match would clinch the league championship.

The top two teams in the regular-season standings will host state playoff games. The following weekend, Nov. 6-8, all teams meet in Camp Verde to determine the state champion.

Grand Canyon looked good in the first half of Friday’s win over Ash Fork. The Phantoms scored all their goals in the 5-0 triumph.

Walker opened the first-half scoring barrage with a goal in the eighth minute. Justin Kremer then scored six minutes later for the two-goal lead. Iacampo had assists on both goals.

Kremer found the net again in the 20th minute on an assist from Walker. In the 24th minute, Walker scored on an exceptional setup pass by Brian Skeet. Miles Hunter finished scoring with a penalty kick goal in the 39th minute.

In the second half, Coach Hunter made some lineup changes to try to get some players who had never scored before into the goal column.

Jesse Hunter had another good game at goalkeeper, allowing no goals with six saves.

For Kremer, it was the second straight match where he scored goals. The youngster has impressed the coach at striker.

“He kind of came out of nowhere really. We were getting ready to play Tri-City and Tempy was not going to be there so we needed someone to replace him,” Hunter said. “I put Justin in there in the Thursday night scrimmage and decided to give him a shot. It’s working.”

Grand Canyon could clinch its first-ever winning season Friday against Flagstaff Northland Prep. The Phantoms had two .500 seasons under coach Ken Olsen, but have never finished above .500. The team plays at Holbrook Saturday.

Grand Canyon goes to 4-1-1 in the region, 7-4-2 overall.

There were no junior-varsity matches last weekend.

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