Winning by a nose: Campo Verde makes history

November 4, 2023 by Jose Garcia, AZPreps365

Campo Verde became the first Arizona Interscholastic Association team to lift a championship flag trophy. (Jose Garcia/

Madison Coger’s nose saved the day.

Her hands also were invaluable.

But frankly, what Campo Verde accomplished Saturday at Mesa Mountain View was team driven. How else to explain losing to an explosive team 35-0 earlier in the season and then avenging that loss in the biggest 5A game of the year to make flag history.

All hands were on deck when Campo Verde defeated Canyon View 14-13 to become the first Arizona Interscholastic Association flag football champion. But all those tears of joy after the game may not have rolled if Coger hadn’t shed some blood.

With 2:29 left in the final, Canyon View was an extra point from tying the game at 14-14.

But the attempt struck Coger’s nose as she and her line of defense jumped.

The pain and blood flowed instantly, but the memory of being the first flag champ will last a lifetime.

“I’m going to wake up (tomorrow) and say, ‘It happened,’” Coger said. “But I don’t think it’s going to hit me until I go to school on Monday.”

Campo Verde’s defense made sure to stop Canyon View one more time in the final seconds of the game.

That unit had nine sacks unofficially for the champ, with ‘peanut butter and jelly,’ Serena De Rosa and Myla Robertson, doing most of the smothering. Coger also had two interceptions.

“Our offense is explosive and dynamic, and the most mundane thing in our sport is pulling flags, “ Canyon View coach Michael Beal said. “And (Campo Verde) pulled flags all night. They did a phenomenal job. So whatever they did in 48 hours to prepare for Nyjah (Green), Aaliya (Oliver) and to put the pressure on (quarterback) Katelyn Jewell the way they did, I give Campo’s coaches all the credit in the world.”

On offense, Coger also caught a pair of 60-yard touchdown passes from her close friend, quarterback Isabella Pap.

With 9:08 left in the second quarter, Coger got behind a defender to score the first high school flag football touchdown in a title game. A Canyon View double pass play in the third quarter led to its first score, a 27-yard touchdown throw to a player with cool pink cleats, Angelina Harrell.

On the ensuing drive, Nyjah Green picked off a Campo Verde pass with 4:31 remaining in the third quarter. Green was stellar throughout the year and scored her team’s final touchdown after Jewell tossed her 55th touchdown with 2:29 remaining in the game.

Green’s team had all of the momentum after her interception, but back-to-back sacks by De Rosa and Robertson then forced a Canyon View punt.

On Campo Verde’s next drive, during the first play of the fourth quarter, Coger and Pap connected again. Coger and a defender went up for the pass, but the hero of Saturday’s game came down with the ball before running away as another defender attempted to pull her flags. 

“I’ve been playing football for seven or eight years,” Pap said. “So this is the pinnacle for all of the work I’ve put in. (Coger) and I have played together for so long. It was culminating to this. It shows that if you work hard you can achieve anything.”

Pap and her go-to receiver are the first AIA players to reach the 3,000 yards passing and 1,000 receiving yards plateau, respectively.

Campo Verde won the 5A tournament as the No. 4 seed and finished second in its region. So it was somewhat of a surprise that it won out, especially after being shutout by Canyon View (14-2) early in the season.
“Honestly, what we noticed was that we had to put pressure on the quarterback,” Campo Verde defensive coordinator John Clayton said. “We couldn’t let her just sit back there. We also had to make sure we had somebody watching Nyjah. She is amazing.”

Campo Verde head coach Brian Coger kept some receipts.

He dubbed this year the Revenge Tour.

Brian, Coger’s father, and their 12-4 team finished the year on an eight game win streak.

“It’s special,” Brian said. “It’s super special for them. They’ve been putting in so much work. I don’t think anybody put us in the conversation.”