Duncan Wildkats head to Kearny to battle Bearcats in season opener

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: Duncan practices in anticipation for its opening game Friday night against the Ray Bearcats.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

KEARNY – Duncan commences its 2018 football season Friday night at Kearny against the Ray Bearcats. It is the 16th season in the 8-man format and the first under long-time assistant coach Eric Bejarano.

Bejarano becomes the program’s fourth head coach in the 8-man era, following Feliciano “Chano” Talavera (19-14 overall) during four years (2003-06), Joseph Sesate (8-8) in two years (2007-08), and Eldon Merrell (38-41) in nine years (2009-17).

Suiting up for Bejarano’s debut as the head coach are 14 student-athletes, 10 of whom return with varsity experience.

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: A break in a recent practice session means drinking water.

Back from a team that went 2-6 overall and 2-2 in the region for third place are seniors Wesley Conyer and Michael McGrath; juniors Lucas Basteen, Cesar Contreras, Cliff Hansen, and Christopher Smith; and sophomores Tommy Hille, Jason McGrath, Spencer Smith, and Aiden Wright.

Conyer landed 1A All-Conference 2nd Team as a running back plus South All-Region 1st Team as a linebacker, punter, and running back while All-Region second team honors were bestowed on Basteen as a linebacker plus both Hansen and Chris Smith as receivers – tight ends.

New to the program are Tanner Brown, Wilbur Quivara, Steven Rodriguez, and Austin Bigler.

Joey and Robert Bejarano plus Dan Coats round out the coaching staff.

The Wildkats hosted the Winkelman Hayden Lobos for a scrimmage on Aug. 10.

Joining Duncan in the 1A South Region are the Bowie / San Simon Cougars, the Elfrida Valley Union Blue Devils, the Fort Thomas Apaches, the Saint David Tigers, and the Sells Baboquivari Warriors.

Duncan will line up against the Fredonia Lynx in Northern Arizona University’s Walkup Skydome for the teams’ inaugural pairing on Aug. 24, hosts the Cougars on Aug. 31, visits the Salome Frogs on Sept. 7, the Tigers on Sept. 21, and the Apaches on Sept. 28, and hosts the Blue Devils on Oct. 5 and the Warriors on Oct. 12.

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: Wildkats put the finishing touches to their preparation for the season opener in Kearny on Friday, Aug. 17. Duncan is 65-63 during 15 seasons in the 8-man format.

The Wildkats are also meeting the Cougars and Frogs for the first time, and are 6-4 (.600) versus the Tigers, 8-7 (.533) versus the Apaches, 5-9 (.357) versus the Blue Devils, and 1-0 versus the Warriors.

Duncan’s 2017 opponents were a combined 33-32 during the regular season and 4-5 in the post-season with five of the eight teams qualifying for the post-season. One ended as the state runner-up.

This season’s opponents posted records of 22-34 in the regular season and 2-4 in the post-season, East Region Ray (5-3, 1-1), North Region Fredonia (1-7, 0-0), Bowie / San Simon (0-0. 0-0), West Region Salome (4-4, 1-1), Saint David (1-7, 0-0), Fort Thomas (6-2, 0-1), Valley Union (5-3, 0-1), and Baboquivari (0-8, 0-0).

The Wildkats have an overall winning percentage of .508 (65-63) through 128 games during the previous 15 seasons (2003-17), .523 (34-31) at home, .492 (31-32) on the road, and .543 (25-21) in region play.

Duncan is 0-4 overall versus the Bearcats and 0-3 in Kearny during the same span.

“We’ll put all the parts together (by game time),” said Bejarano.