Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci senior Brandon Blair shakes hands with Trivium Prep senior Kade Gutierrez. The captains met at mid-field for the pre-game coin toss. The No. 2 Crimson Knights came from behind to defeat No. 15 Morenci 35-28 on Nov. 8.
By Raymundo Frasquillo
GLENDALE – Second-ranked Trivium Prep (10-0 overall, 4-0 Verde Region) will host No. 7 Thatcher (7-4, 2-2 Black) in the quarterfinals Friday, Nov. 15. The Crimson Knights came from behind to oust No. 15 Morenci (4-7, 1-3 Black) 35-28 while Thatcher eliminated No. 10 Bisbee (8-3, 3-1 San Pedro) 48-7 in the first round Nov. 8.
Region representatives left for the second of four rounds are 3-of-4 from the Black, 2-of-3 from the Agua Fria, 2-of-2 from the Verde, and 1-of-2 from the San Pedro. The two Gila and Salt representatives along with the lone Little Colorado entrant were eliminated.
The other quarterfinal pairings are No. 9 Benson (8-3, 4-0 San Pedro) at No. 1 Eagar Round Valley (8-2, 4-0 Black), No. 5 Parker (10-1, 3-1 Verde) at No. 4 Eloy Santa Cruz (9-2, 3-1 Agua Fria), and No. 6 Saint Johns (9-2, 3-1 Black) at No. 3 Phoenix Christian (10-1, 4-0 Agua Fria).
Five of six other higher seeds also won first-round pairings. The other lower bracket entrants, No. 3 Phoenix Christian and No. 6 Saint Johns ended the seasons of No. 14 Whiteriver Alchesay (8-3, 7-0 Little Colorado) and No. 11 Phoenix Arizona Lutheran (7-4, 2-2 Agua Fria), 62-6 and 35-7, respectively.
In the upper bracket, it was No. 1 Eagar Round Valley 52-30 over No. 16 Miami (7-4, 4-1 Gila), No. 9 Benson 63-19 over No. 8 Phoenix Veritas Prep (8-3, 5-0 Salt), No. 5 Parker 20-0 over No. 12 Wellton Antelope (7-4, 4-1 Salt), and No. 4 Eloy Santa Cruz 39-6 over No. 13 Chandler Prep (7-4, 5-0 Gila).
Trivium Prep – 35, Morenci – 28
Trailing by a wide right conversion kick, 28-27, Trivium Prep drove 66 yards in seven plays for the go-ahead score. Senior running back David Marquez bulldozed in from 19 yards out and senior quarterback Kade Gutierrez added the conversion run. The Crimson Knights led 35-28 with 3:25 remaining.
“I expected to be the guy to lead us to victory,” Marquez said when asked if he expected to be the one to contribute the go-ahead score. He crossed the goal line four times in averaging 6.0 yards (34-203) per carry. His numbers during the 9-game regular season were an 11.5 (153-1,758) yard average per carry with 23 TDs. The Crimson Knights averaged 5.3 (57-300) rushing yards per carry against Morenci.
Morenci’s final possession lasted four plays, two no-gain rushes and two incomplete passes using 26 seconds, and resulted in a turnover on downs.
The Crimson Knights gained 17 yards in four plays before taking a knee to wind down the clock.
Morenci led 28-7 at halftime, but Trivium Prep scored 28 unanswered points to advance to the next round.
The Crimson Knights had nearly three times ball possession than Morenci in both halves but gained only 107 yards to 131 in the first half to trail by 21 points. The Wildcats’ scoring was on two defensive plays and two on offense.
“There were some anxious moments in the first half,” fourth-year Trivium Prep head coach Michael Spencer said.
“We expected to bring our lunch pails in and it would probably be a dog fight,” he said. ”We had to match the intensity with them. We have tremendous respect for Morenci.”
“You showed character for four quarters,” Morenci first-year head coach Joseph Garcia told the Wildcats. “Penalties hurt us.”
“If you don’t want to end up like this a year from now,” he said, “Do something about it. Each missed 7-on-7 session or weight room session in the off-season adds up.”
His “you get out what you put into” words were aimed at the underclassmen on the team. All he could say to the soon to graduate members was, “I can’t change anything for you, but if you need something, don’t hesitate to ask, I will do my best to help you.”
Six Morenci Class of 2020 members played their final game in a Wildcats’ uniform. Another 22 student-athletes are expected to return for the 2020 season.
Trivium Prep numbered 14 seniors on its 38-member roster, eight were listed on the previous three rosters, two on three, one on two, and three were participating in their initial campaign. The other 24 student-athletes included seven juniors, 11 sophomores, and six freshmen.
The Crimson Knights marched 86 yards in 17 plays using 8:20 during their initial possession. Marquez bulled in from three yards out for his first of four touchdowns and sophomore Andrew Kerfoot added his first of three conversion kicks. The home team led 7-0 with 3:29 left in the opening quarter.
Morenci went three-and-out, punting after gaining a yard during 2:20.
Trivium Prep gained two yards after snapping three plays and threw an interception, plus netted six yards in six plays and fumbled, on its ensuing possessions.
Morenci scored on both turnovers. Sophomore Tyler Correl returned the interception 10 yards and junior Joseph Hernandez returned the recovered fumble 20 yards. Hernandez added both conversion kicks to give the Wildcats a 14-7 advantage with 4:03 elapsed in the second quarter.
The Crimson Knights punted twice and threw another interception on their next three possessions. Four plays netted 17 yards using 1:38 before a punt, an interception on the first down turned the ball over, and four lost yards in three plays used 2:27 before a punt.
Morenci scored twice more, in two plays using 1:05 covering 81 yards and in one play using nine seconds covering 13 yards, and gained 36 yards in five plays using the half’s remaining 2:12, on its next three possessions. Senior Carlos Bray used teammates’ blocks en route to a 76-yard TD and the conversion kick was blocked, an interception set up a Bray 13-yard TD and senior Brandon Blair added the conversion run. The Wildcats led 28-7 with 4:45 left in the first half.
Morenci received the second-half kick-off but fumbled the onside kick. Its ensuing five possessions ended on fumbles twice more, on downs twice, and in a punt.
The Wildcats gained two yards in four plays using 1:33 before turning the ball over on downs, fumbled on first down after eight seconds, fumbled on first down following a first down on a penalty after 28 seconds, gained in seven plays using 3:33 before punting, and turned the ball over on downs after four plays using 26 seconds.
Trivium Prep returned a recovered fumble for a 36-yard score (14-28), gained 12 yards in five plays plus 25 on three penalties using 2:38 for a score (21-28), had no gain in three plays before punting after 1:52, covered 70 yards in 11 plays using 5:31 for a score (27-28), covered 56 yards in seven plays using 3:23 for a score (35-28), and snapped five plays for 17 yards before taking a knee to use up the final 2:53.
Marquez returned the recovered fumble and Kerfoot added the conversion kick, Marquez rushed in from four yards out and Kerfoot added the conversion kick, Gutierrez ran in from a yard out, and Marquez and Gutierrez added the final eight points.
“The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” were displayed on opposite ends of the Trivium Prep football field following the conclusion of the contest.
Tears of joy filled the eyes of the Crimson Knights on one side while tears of disappointment filled the eyes of the Wildcats on the opposite side.
Morenci was playing in its fifth consecutive post-season, going 2-5. The Wildcats succumbed 27-13 to No. 3 Round Valley and 33-19 to No. 6 Phoenix Christian in the 2015 and 2016 first rounds as No. 14 and No. 11, respectively; downed No. 9 Phoenix Arizona Lutheran 27-17 in the first round and fell 45-7 to No. 1 Round Valley in the quarterfinals during 2017 as No. 8, and defeated No. 13 Parker 57-6 in the first round before falling 27-7 to No. 5 Phoenix Christian in the quarterfinals during 2018 as No. 4.
Trivium Prep played two seasons in the 8-man format and went 1-1 during its initial 2A season in 2018, eliminating No. 15 Teec Nos Pos Red Mesa 55-7 in round one before falling 47-7 to No. 7 Saint Johns in the quarterfinals.