Fans loving unbeaten Morenci grid squad

Walt Mares Photo/Gila Herald: Members of the Morenci Wildcats Lil’ Cheers group put on an exciting show at halftime of the Sept. 16 Morenci-Willcox football game. The undefeated Wildcats won 21-14. Lil’ Cheers work hard to practice their routines and thrill adult spectators with their halftime shows. The program includes a great many tikes and instills strong school spirit for participants and parents and the many other fans in the grandstands.

Wildcats head to Tombstone on Friday

By Walt Mares

MORENCI – The stadium was packed. In fact, there was not enough room in the bleachers to accommodate all the Morenci Wildcat fans as the ‘Cats took on the Willcox football squad in the Sept. 16 battle.

Many had to settle for standing along the fence around the home side of the football field. 

Just before the game, the Morenci Fire Association set off fireworks that brought cheers and whistles from the Morenci hometown crowd. The Morenci firefighters have a long-standing tradition of bolstering pride in crowds at the Wildcats’ football games with their beautiful and at times awing, fireworks displays.

It seemed to set the stage for what was to be an exciting game, and more.

Walt Mares Photo/Gila Herald: A little girl holds a sign encouraging members of the Morenci Wildcat Lil’ Cheers to be loud in their praise for the undefeated Morenci Wildcat football team. With her is an older ‘Lil’ Cheer mentor.

That included outstanding performances at halftime by the Morenci Pride Band and the many Wildcat Lil’ Cheers group that totaled many, many members whose ages ranged from pre-kindergartners to fourth graders. The younger gals did their best to keep up with their older partners.

The capacity crowd absolutely loved it. That was especially so for the parents and grandparents of the very young cheering squad.

The hometown crowd was also captivated by the Morenci Pride Marching Band that performed at halftime. The band kept up a long tradition of keeping the home crowd well entertained during the game and really showed its stuff at halftime.

Walt Mares Photo/Gila Herald: Joel Jorlaman on guitar and Gabe Clancey on the keyboard bring the fire to the Morenci Pride Marching Band’s performance.

The eventual 21-14 win by the Wildcats delighted the hometown crowd. Their Wildcat football squad remained undefeated this season. The score throughout the game had the Wildcats ahead by a 21-7 margin. But the Willcox Cowboys scored a final time with about two minutes left in the game to make it a final one-touchdown spread.

What stood out to one longtime high school football observer was not only the Wildcats’ effort but Morenci Coach Joseph Garcia’s demeanor throughout the game and many previous games. He respects his players. He at times shouted instructions to his team, mostly because of all the noise created by the hometown crowd. But if one of his players committed an error causing a penalty or allowing the Cowboys to advance, Garcia did not berate the player or players, at least not in public.

Walt Mares Photo/Gila Herald: Fireworks light up the sky and help set the tone for the opening of the Morenci-Willcox football game on Sept. 16. The Morenci Fire Association has for many years added to the Morenci community’s pride and spirit, setting off fireworks every time the Wildcats score a touchdown.

A long-time observer reflected on what he had seen elsewhere, but never at Morenci.

The observer, a former sportswriter, recalled how he had often seen coaches berate and humiliate a player on the sidelines and in front of his squad and a hometown crowd, especially as big as the crowd present at the Morenci-Willcox matchup. 

Walt Mares Photo/Gila Herald: Members of the Morenci Pride marching band leave the field following their halftime performance at the Sept. 16 Morenci-Wilcox football game. Undefeated Morenci won 21-14. The band gave a sterling performance that thrilled folks who were packed tight in the grandstands.

To the former sportswriter, Garcia, as well as his assistant coaches, stand out as strong, highly competent leaders who care for their charges as people as well as being players.

The Wildcats take on Tombstone this Friday, Sept. 23, at Tombstone. Morenci High has very strong football supporters so it would not be surprising if there is a strong contingent of Morenci fans at that game. 

One can just imagine how crowded the grandstands will be and the fence in front of the stands is bound to be when homecoming rolls around on Sept. 30. It will no doubt be advisable to arrive early at Lawson Stadium.

It is advisable for fans to bring coats or sweaters as the late September night could very well be chilly.