Bulldogs welcome Warriors to Safford on Friday

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Damian “Monster” Rios stiff-arms would be junior tackler Donavan Vozza en route to a sizable gain. The Bulldogs were shut out by Morenci in their home opener on Sept. 2. Rios has averaged 6.0 (46-282) yards per carry through three games. Safford (1-2) hosts Tucson Pueblo on Friday, Sept. 9.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

SAFFORD – The 3A South Region Safford Bulldogs host the 4A Kino Region Tucson Pueblo Warriors on Friday, Sept. 9 at 7 p.m. A 13-12 Safford win resulted following the 2021 (Oct. 8) pairing in Tucson. The Warriors last visited Graham County in 2015, leaving with a 24-18 win over Thatcher (Sept. 18).

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Safford captains head toward mid-field for the pre-game coin toss with Morenci. From left, are junior Jojo Ruelas (2), and seniors, Brenden Gunnett (70), Aiden Arbizo (52), and Tanner Emery (72).

The Warriors (1-0 overall) bring a 42-20 win over 4A Sonoran Region Tucson Cholla (Sept. 2) into the contest. The Bulldogs (1-2) have a 27-20 win over 3A Metro East Region Phoenix Christian (Aug. 19) plus losses of 3-41 to 2A Salt Region Pima (Aug. 26) and 0-44 to 2A Salt Region Morenci (Sept. 2).

As per Maxpreps, Pueblo has totaled 495 offensive yards, 235 on 30 carries, and 260 on nine receptions with averages of 7.8 yards per carry and 12.4 yards per catch. Senior Miguel Moreira has averaged 13.0 (3-39) yards per carry, Elijah Duran 8.9 (14-124) yards, senior Anthony Carpenter 5.7 (11-63) yards, and senior Diego Ramirez 4.5 (2-9) yards. Ramirez has completed 9-14 passes with no interceptions, with junior Azaizol Espinoza averaging 17.3 (3-52) yards per catch, Moreira 12.7 (3-38) yards, senior Andre Blanton 9.0 (2-18) yards, and Duran 4.0 (1-4) yards.

Defensively, junior Damian Duarte has a quarterback sack, and both juniors Jeremiah Parrish and Ben Rash have each recovered a fumble.

Safford has notched 703 offensive yards, 356 on 78 carries plus 347 on 34 receptions with averages of 4.6 yards per carry and 11.6 yards per catch.

Seven Bulldogs have carried the ball with sophomore Carlos Arbizo averaging 8.0 (3-24) yards per carry, Damian “Monster” Rios 6.1 (46-282) yards, and sophomore Micah Chaplin 6.0 (2-12) yards.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: A 1921 bell was restored by David Gunnett and Karen Fox for students to ring in victory.

Junior Jojo Ruelas completed 28-74 passes for 313 yards with an interception and sophomore Chris Arbizo 2-5 for 34 with an interception. Ten different Bulldogs have caught a pass with four in double digits. Junior Nathaniel Quintero is averaging 22.0 (1-22) yards per catch, junior Michael Chavez 15.2 (5-76) yards, Rios 15.0 (6-90) yards, and junior Bernardo Carillo 13.0 (2-26) yards.

Defensively, four Bulldogs have recorded a quarterback sack with junior Sylis Welchman getting two, four have an interception with Ruelas pulling down two, and four each recovering fumbles.

Pueblo finished 3-6 for 2021 under Jacob Allen, ending with a 0-47 regular season loss in Tempe to the Buffalos. The Warriors averaged a four-tenths margin or a 24.2-23.8 (218-214) score per game, posting marks of 1-3 (.250) at home and 2-3 (.400) on the road.

During the previous 10 seasons (2011-20), Pueblo was 50-44 (.532) overall with records of 30-17 (.638) at home and 20-27 (.426) on the road, averaging a 25-21 (2,380-1,935) score per game or 4-point margin.

The Warriors qualified for the post-season thrice, succumbing in the first round each time. Pueblo fell 13-42 to No. 4 Estrella Foothills as No. 12 of 42 in Division IV during 2015, 0-42 to No. 4 Tucson Salpointe Catholic as No. 13 of 43 in 4A during 2017, and 6-21 to Gilbert Mesquite as No. 11 of 45 in 4A during 2019.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Safford spirit line members adorn the sideline with images of senior football players and cheerleaders.

Pueblo went 12-28 (.300) under Micheal A. Chadwick (2009-12), 3-7 (.300) under Adrian Kock (2013), 41-22 (.651) under Brandon Sanders (2014-19), and 0-1 under Jacob Allen (2020).

Last season, the Bulldogs finished 6-5 overall, 1-3 in the region, averaging a 20-27 (215-292) score per game or a 7-point deficit under Bob Parks. Safford went 3-2 (.600) at home and 3-3 (.500) on the road. The No. 3 Chandler Valley Christian Eagles ended the No. 14 Bulldogs’ season with a 49-point state meet first-round shutout.

During the previous 10 seasons (2011-20), Safford was 56-49 (.533) overall with records of 27-23 (.540) at home and 29-26 (.527) on the road, averaging a 29-24 (3,048-2,567) score per game or 5-point margin.

The Bulldogs were 2-5 during five state playoff qualifying seasons, defeating No. 8 Goodyear Estrella Foothills 49-42 and falling 20-64 to No. 1 Show Low as No. 9 of 32 in Division IV during 2013, topping No. 10 Sahuarita Walden Grove 49-14 and falling 21-42 to No. 2 Sahuarita as No. 7 of 32 in Division IV during 2014, falling 7-45 to No. 5 Tucson Sabino as No. 12 of 37 in 3A during 2016, blanked No. 8 Buckeye Odyssey Institute 34-0 and fell 28-65 to No. 2 Yuma Catholic as No. 10 of 38 in 3A during 2018, and falling 19-30 to No. 10 Sabino as No. 7 of 39 in 3A during 2019.

Safford went 37-38 (.493) in seven seasons under Michael Alba (2011-17), 15-8 (.652) in two seasons under Eric Hjalmanson (2018-19), and 4-3 (.571) in a season under John O’Mera (2020).

A 1921 American Bell Foundry Company No. 2 bell was unveiled last week. Restored by community volunteers David Gunnett and Karen Fox, it will be on hand to ring for the victory.

Safford has played its home games in the same facility since 1987, named for Herman BB Andrews but not officially dedicated. There is not a plaque or sign indicating the honor bestowed on him physically anywhere, nor did he receive anything from the school. His name just went up on an adjacent wall following his 2018 induction into the National Coaches Hall of Fame. His son Andrew (2018, wrestling) and Norma Bellamy (1995, volleyball) remain the only three Safford coaches to be inducted into the Arizona Coaches Hall of Fame.

A standing-room-only overflow visitors’ side may not happen for the Tucson team as did for Morenci last week.

Raymundo Frasquilo Photo/Gila Herald: The Safford marching band performed for pre-game and during halftime of the home opener with Morenci. The group is under the direction of Christian Varnam.

Pueblo visits 4A Gila Region Sahuarita Walden Grove (Sept. 23) and 4A Gila Region Tucson Amphitheater (Sept. 30), hosts 4A Gila Region Sahuarita (Oct. 7), visits 4A Kino Region Casa Grande Vista Grande (Oct. 14) and 4A Kino Region Tucson Canyon del Oro (Oct. 21), and hosts 4A Kino Region Tucson Mica Mountain (Oct. 28).

The Bulldogs host 3A South Region Thatcher (Sept. 16), visit 3A South Region Tucson Sabino (Sept. 23), hosts 3A South Region Tucson Palo Verde Magnet (Oct. 7) and 3A Metro East Region Payson (Oct. 14), and visit 3A South Region Benson (Oct. 21) and 3A South Region Tucson Pusch Ridge Christian (Oct. 28).

To date, the 3A South Region members are a combined 12-5 (.706) overall while the 4A Kino Region members are 5-1 (.833).