BULLHEAD CITY — When the boys soccer team from Northwest Christian High School in Phoenix invaded Anderson Auto Group Fieldhouse on Tuesday, the Crusaders appeared to be taller and stronger than their River Valley High counterparts.

Looks weren’t deceiving, and the upshot was a 16-0 win for the visiting Crusaders.

After the Dust Devils had made positive (albeit small) strides in recent games, they had no answer for Northwest Christian’s relentless pressure and powerful shots on goal.

River Valley coach Kenny Read said there was a need to keep grinding and for more toughness.

“We’ve got to be more aggressive. Our opponents can be very physical,” said Read, whose team’s total shots on goal could be counted on one hand.

It certainly didn’t help that co-captain Travis Heinrichs didn’t suit up, as he’s out for the season after breaking an arm — adding injury to insult — during a loss to Mohave High last Friday.

Despite a short-lived stretch in the first half when the Devils kept the Crusaders in check, the eventual victors had a volcanic-like burst that led to a 10-0 cushion entering intermission.

Although River Valley swapped goalkeepers — trying Yair Flores in place of starter Kyle Buffett — the difference was undetectable. 

Read and co-coach Gus Hernandez employed five fullbacks in the hopes of setting up a stronger “wall” of defense, to no avail.

Only three minutes after the break, Northwest Christian drilled in another goal, quickly followed by an additional tally for an even dozen.

Since the Dust Devils couldn’t muster any offensive pressure, the Crusaders emptied their bench. Their backups found holes in River Valley’s overwhelmed back line — and the scoreboard read 16-0 when the match mercifully ended with 20 minutes still on the clock.

Afterward, Hernandez lamented the latest loss.

“We haven’t had much time to practice lately. We must focus on fundamentals,” he said, noting the Devils’ next match isn’t until next Tuesday. “We’ll watch game film and go from there.”

Read tried to emphasize the positive.

“Our players need to keep building and put in the effort,” he said. “We’ve got to have dedication and heart. You need to have faith in your teammates.”

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