Photo By Stan Bonifacio Sports Photography: Thatcher quarterback Wyatt Larson (8) fights for yardage. Thatcher fell 14-49 to visiting American Leadership Academy-Gilbert North but still remain in first place in the 3A South Region.
By Jon Johnson
THATCHER – To be the best, you have to beat the best, and this season Thatcher (2-0 region, 4-1 conference, 6-2 overall) has not shied away from barking at the big dog in the park.
After taking on 5A Desert View on short notice (Sept. 24) that resulted in their first loss of the season, 6-28, Thatcher faced one of the top teams in the 3A Conference on Friday, falling to American Leadership Academy-Gilbert North, 14-49, for its second loss of the season.
ALA exploited the Thatcher secondary early and often, including a 42-yard TD pass and a 72-yard TD pass as two of the four scores in the first quarter to open up a 28-0 lead.
Thatcher held ALA scoreless for the next two quarters and came within a couple of scores to cut it to 14-28 after Brandon Napier took a 4th and 2 QB sneak from his own 25 all the way to the house 75 yards away. But ALA QB Adam Damante (28-44 for 409 yards, 5 TDs, and 1 INT) and the rest of the team were too much for Thatcher on that night. But lessons can be learned from losses, and Thatcher just might see ALA or a team like them in the playoffs.
The Eagles remain unbeaten in the 3A South Region, however, and control their own destiny. With games left on the road this Friday at (Tucson) Pusch Ridge (2-1 region, 3-2 conference, 6-2 overall) and hosting rival Safford (1-1 region, 2-2 conference, 6-2 overall) for the regular-season finale on Friday, Oct. 29, if Thatcher wins both those games it will be the 3A South Region Champion.
After falling to No. 2 Pusch Ridge 14-38 last week, Safford fell to No. 3 in the 3A South and will look to finish strong on the road at Sabino this Friday and at Thatcher on Oct. 29. If the Bulldogs defeat Sabino and Thatcher defeats Pusch Ridge, the Bulldogs versus Eagles game would determine the regional champion.
In the 2A San Pedro, Pima likely controls its own destiny much like Thatcher. Pima (2-0 region, 5-0 conference, 5-2 overall) is currently second in the 2A San Pedro Region after dropping below Willcox when Willcox canceled its game against Pima due to COVID-19 protocols. While Willcox is currently unbeaten in the region, it still has to play Morenci on Friday and finish the regular season against Benson on Oct. 29.
If Pima beats Bisbee on the road on Friday, it will likely be playing for the 2A San Pedro Championship in its rival game against Morenci in the last regular-season game on Oct. 29. Another easily seen scenario could have a three-way tie between Pima, Morenci, and Benson if all three teams win this week and Morenci defeats Pima on Oct. 29 and Benson defeats Willcox.