About 10,000 people reside in the beautiful southeast Arizona community of Safford.
Out of all those, probably no one is more proud of what Safford High’s boys soccer team accomplished on Saturday (Dec. 28) than Chris Gibbs.
Gibbs is the town’s mayor, and he happens to be the soccer coach.
The Bulldogs played with a sound, unruffled, aggressive style from start to finish and captured the championship of the 12th annual Phoenix Christian Invitational Holiday Tournament with a 4-1 victory over host Phoenix Christian.
Safford, ranked among the top 10 teams in Division III by azcentral.com, got a pair of goals from Alejandro Hernandez and one each from Shawn Clonts and Michael Urrea. Oscar Ruiz scored the lone goal for Phoenix Christian.
Gibbs was thankful for Phoenix Christian’s hospitality, not necessarily referring to what happened on the field.
“We would like to play in more of these kinds of tournaments, but we can’t always afford the (hotel) rooms. Phoenix Christian was very gracious in allowing us to spend the night in their locker room,’’ Gibbs said. “It has been a great experience. Our guys were able to bond, get to know each other better.’’
Gibbs, a retired engineer, also is thankful to be the mayor.
“Safford is a nice community, a lot of good people there. I have enjoyed working with them,’’ he said.
He enjoys working with his players.
“When I was a high school athlete, I had a coach that went beyond the sport. He helped us out in a lot of other ways,’’ Gibbs said. “I guess I’m kind of old school, and I have carried that over to the way I coach. I think the kids are looking for leadership. And sports helps keep them grounded.’’
Because Safford has five or six men who are capable of scoring up front, Gibbs said, “that puts pressure on the (opposing) defenses. It makes it difficult to watch all of them.’’
Hernandez’s first goal came with 28 minutes left in the first half when he headed the ball in off a corner kick. He scored again less than four minutes later for a 2-0 Safford lead.
Clonts increased the advantage to 3-0 with a goal at the 19:50 mark.
Safford had more opportunities early in the second half, but could not convert. Urrea put the ball into the net off a deflection with 26:18 left in the match. PC finally broke through with Ruiz’s goal with 13:10 left.
The Cougars played better in the second half, but appeared to run out of energy in the late stages.
Gibbs is looking forward to the second half of the season. His team did not play many games in the first month, but the schedule will keep the Bulldogs plenty busy in January.