Football season opens with Morenci at Thatcher on Friday

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: The Wildcats scrimmaged Douglas on Aug. 10. Morenci junior quarterback Brandon Blair hands the ball off to the second back as linemen head to make assigned blocks. The season opener is in Thatcher on Aug. 17.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

THATCHER – Whether pouring over high school yearbooks, yellowed newspapers, or scratched microfilm, we study history to learn from the past. Some have said Morenci has never opened its football season against Thatcher. They are mistaken.

Set the way-back machine 71 years Sherman, to a time before we rocked around the clock and there was a whole lotta shakin’ going on, and the first day of classes was on the Tuesday following Labor Day.

The two teams opened the 1947 season on the Gila Junior College (Eastern Arizona College) campus. Morenci prevailed 13-0 in the Eastern Conference (now 2A Black) contest Sept. 19.

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: Wildcats junior running back Carlos Bray follows his blocker for a sizeable gain during the scrimmage with Douglas.

During the ensuing 70 seasons (1948-2017), Morenci has an overall winning percentage of .571 (400-292-8) through 700 games, .620 (212-126-4) at home, .525 (188-166-4) on the road, and .552 (219-173-5) in region play. The Wildcats are 16-33 (.318) overall versus the Eagles and 6-18 (.227) in Thatcher during the same span.

Thatcher has won the past five pairings, by an average score of 31-9 (155-46) or by a 22-point margin and eight of the most recent 10, 33-15 (325-149) or by a 17-point margin. The Eagles are 16-3 (.842) versus the Wildcats in John T. Mickelson Stadium.

The Wildcats have averaged a score of 29-24 (955-784) per game or a 5-point margin compared to 42-12 (1,592-436) or a 30-point margin by the Eagles during the most recent three seasons (2015-17).

Second-year Morenci head coach David Gallegos has told the Wildcats they can’t change the past, but they can control the present. He expects them to work hard every day, concentrate on doing things right every time they step on the field and improve. It doesn’t matter how they start, but rather, how they finish.

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: Senior Isaac Pacheco gets to the quarterback after the ball was released.

The Wildcats’ 2018 campaign includes the 2017 state champion, state runner-up, a semifinalist, a quarterfinalist, along with two other state meet qualifiers. Morenci has an overall record below .500 against four of those six teams during the past 70 seasons, has gone 103-124-3 (.448) versus its 10 regular season contestants, posted 22 shutouts, and was blanked 29 times.

Morenci ended 8-4 overall, 7-3 in the regular season for No. 8 and 1-1 in the post-season during 2017 while its 2018 opponents were a combined 55-42 and 10-5, respectively.

Joining Morenci and Thatcher in the 2A Black Region are Pima, Eagar Round Valley, and Saint Johns.

This season, beginning in Thatcher (2017 regular season: 9-1, post-season: 4-0) on Aug. 17, Morenci hosts Tucson Santa Rita (0-9, 0-0) on Aug. 24, visits Benson (3-6, 0-0) on Aug. 31, Willcox (5-5, 0-1) on Sept. 7, Eloy Santa Cruz (9-0, 3-1) on Sept. 14, and Bisbee (5-5, 0-0) on Sept. 21, hosts New Mexico Bayard Cobre (2-8, 0-0) on Sept. 28 and Round Valley (10-0, 2-1) on Oct. 12, visits Pima (5-5, 0-1) on Oct. 19, and hosts Saint Johns (7-3, 1-1) on Oct. 26.

The Wildcats are 0-2 versus Tucson Santa Rita, 16-14 (.517) versus Benson, 24-22-1 (.511) versus Willcox, 1-4 (.200) versus Eloy Santa Cruz, 18-21-1 (.486) versus Bisbee, 9-7-1 (.529) versus New Mexico Bayard Cobre, 4-10 (.333) versus Round Valley, 14-6 (.684) versus Pima, and 1-5 (.167) versus Saint Johns.

“We’ll take it one play at a time, one game at a time,” said Gallegos. “We’re further along than we were at this point last season, but not where we need to be yet if we want to play in November.”

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: Sophomore Lance “L.T.” Morey receives his baptism of varsity football, making long gains in the process.

The Wildcats emerged unscathed from a scrimmage with Douglas on Aug. 10.

“It was an opportunity and something to build on,” said Gallegos. “I liked the desire, effort, and fire we had.”

“We can get better. We have to be ready to work during the next four days (before the game with Thatcher).”

Seniors Matthew Garcia and Isaac Pacheco concurred the team was “decent,” can” improve,” and “get better.”

There are specific areas the Wildcats need to address and correct. That was the reason for the scrimmage. It was a litmus test of where they were at that point.

History favors the combined opponents, but Morenci is not lining up against the past this season. The quest begins Friday, Aug. 17. Kick-off is at John T. Mickelson Stadium at 7 p.m.

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: Onlookers react to a positive play by the Wildcats during a home scrimmage with Douglas on Aug. 10.