Apaches advance to state quarterfinals, Wildkats stay home

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Duncan totaled five first-half possessions with only one resulting in a score against Fort Thomas Oct. 25. The Wildkats bowed out of the state playoffs with a 26-6 first-round loss to the Apaches.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

DUNCAN – The No. 6 Duncan Wildkats made school history, but not the kind they hoped. The Wildkats (7-2) became the first sixth seed to bow out in four first-round 1A playoffs, succumbing 26-6 to No. 11 Fort Thomas (5-5) on Packer Field Oct. 25.

The rest of the first-round winners were all the higher seeds, No. 7 Heber Mogollon 58-14 over No. 10 Joseph City (4-5), No. 8 Gilbert Arete Prep (6-3) over No. 9 Anthem Prep (4-5), and No. 5 Winkelman Hayden (7-2) 48-6 over No. 12 Saint David (6-3).

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Fort Thomas senior quarterback Todd Stringfellow (15) eluded Duncan defender Tommy Hille as he looked to find a receiver.

Fort Thomas (5-5) heads to No. 3 Superior (7-1), Mogollon to No. 2 Bagdad (7-1), Arete Prep to No. 1 Williams (7-1), and Hayden to No. 4 Salome (6-2) for the quarterfinals Nov. 1. The semifinals are at Scottsdale Coronado the following week.

The visiting Apaches shut down the Wildkats 12-0 in the second half after taking a 14-6 halftime advantage. Fort Thomas yielded a lone score in five Duncan first-half possessions.

All of the first half scoring was in the second quarter. Fort Thomas covered 43 yards in four plays and 49 yards in one play. Senior quarterback Todd Stringfellow connected with senior Zack Walker for five yards and with junior Darien McCabe for 24 yards. Stringfellow added a conversion run on the second touchdown. Fort Thomas led 14-0 with 2:01 elapsed in the second quarter.

The next two visitor possessions resulted in fumbling after gaining seven yards in two plays, and an incomplete pass on the seventh play following a 42-yard march, before the half ended.

Duncan turned the ball over on downs a third time before driving 65 yards in 10 plays for its only score of the game. Junior quarterback Jason McGrath connected with junior Tommy Hille for a 16-yard score. The conversion run was stopped for a loss.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Senior Zack Walker found running room against the Wildkats in Duncan.

The Wildkats turned the ball over on downs after gaining five yards on their ensuing possession.

A scoreless first quarter resulted. Fort Thomas fumbled on its second down and turned the ball over on downs after gaining 73 yards in 16 plays plus a penalty. Duncan turning the ball over on downs twice, in four plays after gaining six yards and in six plays after gaining 26 yards.

Since the Top 12 format for the 8-man state playoffs (2011-18) has been in effect, records were 13-6 for the No. 2 seed, 13-7 for No. 3, 12-5 for No. 4, 12-6 for No. 1, 11-9 for No. 5, 9-8 for No. 7, 7-8 for No. 6, 6-8 for No. 9, 3-8 for No. 8, 1-8 for No. 11, and 0-8 for both No. 10 and No. 12.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Fort Thomas trainer Sammy Diaz attended to senior Christian Titla during the playoff game in Duncan. The Clifton 2005 grad was schooled in Eastern Arizona College’s sports medicine program and worked for Safford schools before going to Fort Thomas.

During the first round of the past three seasons (2016-18), the No. 6, No. 7, and No. 9 seeds are 3-0 apiece, and the rest 2-1 (No. 5), and  0-3 (No. 8, 10, 11, 12). The top four seeds had a bye in the first round.

The higher seeds are 11-1 in the second round in the same span, 3-0 for No. 1, 3, 4 and 2-1 for No. 2.

Duncan went one-and-done in each of its previous nine appearances in 2008-14, 2016, and 2018, after going 1-1 in its initial appearance during 2003.

Listen to the Fort Thomas at Superior game live here.

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