Four San Pedro Region state playoff entrants host contests Friday

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: The 8-2 No. 4 Morenci Wildcats host 5-2 No. 13 Alchesay in a state meet first-round pairing Friday, Nov. 5. It is the third meeting between the teams in the post-season since 1992. Morenci is 18-24 in the playoffs during the last 39 seasons, also ranked No. 4 in 2018, and entered the playoffs 8-2 in 2018 and 2002.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

MORENCI – The Joseph Garcia-coached No. 4 Morenci Wildcats will be hosting the No. 13 Whiteriver Alchesay Falcons for the first round of the 2A playoffs Friday, Nov. 5. It is the second time the Wildcats host the Falcons in the same round, advancing with a 40-0 win in 1992. The teams also met in the 1995 quarterfinals, with the Wildcats prevailing 48-26.

The Wildcats are 18-24 in the 2A state playoffs, 0-3 in the championship, 3-1 in the semifinals, 4-9 in the quarterfinals, and 11-11 in the first round since switching to the class in 1982 or during 39 previous seasons, finishing 22 times over .500, four at .500, and 13 times below .500.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Michael Casillas knifes through Pima defenders behind blockers for some yardage. The Morenci sophomore gained 225 yards on 22 carries, seven for first downs, and scored twice. His initial 4-yard TD capped a 60-yard drive in eight plays using 4:26. His second one on a fourth-quarter first down covered 54 yards in 11 seconds.

Morenci enters the post-season with an 8-2 regular-season mark, done only twice before in the same span, once under David Gallegos (17-7, 2017-18) in 2018 and once under David Brockmeier (23-18, 2002-05) in 2002. Three teams went 8-1, twice under Reynaldo Peru (51-26, 1991-97) in 1994 and 1992, and once under Jack Edens (22-10, 1983-85) in 1983. The Wildcats went 7-2 in 1984, 1993, and 1998; and 7-3 in 2011 and 2017. A 10-0 mark has been posted twice, by Frank Ogas (37-18, 2011-15) in 2012 and by Kelly Moore (28-12, 1998-2001) in 2001.

The Wildcats have entered the post-season ranked No. 8 or higher four prior times, No. 2 in 2012, No. 4 in 2018, and No. 8 in 2017 and 2020. Morenci advanced to the next round in each season. 

This season, Alchesay (5-2, 2.2493, 2-1 Little Colorado Region for second) is averaging a 43-22 (298-157) score per game or a 21-point margin. A total of 2,666 offensive yards, 2,442 on 353 carries, and 224 on 14-25 passes. The average carry was for 6.9 yards and the average reception was for 16.0 yards.

The Falcons have wins of 40-0 over Sanders Valley (Sept. 2), 46-6 over Chinle (Sept. 9), 52-0 over Pinon (Sept. 16), 56-8 over Red Mesa (Oct. 22), and 38-35 over Saint Johns (Oct. 29). The losses are 46-44 to Miami (Sept. 24) and 62-24 to Holbrook (Oct. 1).

Morenci (8-2 overall, 10.0956 rating, 4-1 for second) has a 38-15 (377-149) average score per game or a 23-point margin. A total of 3,604 offensive yards, 2,805 on 290 carries, and 799 on 38-79 passes. The average carry was for 9.7 yards by 10 different backs and the average reception for 21.0 yards by six different receivers. The total yardage was attained behind the blocking of eight different linemen rotated into the five interior positions.

The Wildcats have wins of 45-12 over Maricopa Sequoia Pathway (Aug. 27), 55-0 over Globe (Sept. 10), 72-0 over Phoenix Madison Highland (Sept. 17), 27-7 over Saint Johns (Sept. 24), 46-7 over Bisbee (Oct. 1), 58-6 over Tombstone (Oct. 8), 27-10 over Willcox (Oct. 22), and 33-19 over Pima (Oct. 29). The losses were 46-7 to Eagar Round Valley (Sept. 3) and 42-7 to Benson (Oct. 15).

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Shawn Hudman stops Pima junior Wyatt Wiltbank for a short gain. The Morenci senior totaled 12 tackles (8 solo, 4 assisted) in Pima and 77 (48 solo, 29 assisted) on the season.

The No. 6 Pima Roughriders (6-3, 7.3762, 3-1 San Pedro Region for third) take on No. 10 Scottsdale Prep  (8-1, 5.2541, 4-1 Verde Region for second), No. 8 Willcox (7-2, 5.2760, 2-2 San Pedro Region for fourth) welcomes No. 9 Holbrook (7-2, 5.2760, 2-1 Little Colorado Region for first), and No. 3 Benson (7-2, 12.0195, 4-1 San Pedro Region for first) entertains No. 14 Sequoia Pathway (7-3, 1.4982, 3-1 Rillito Region for first).

Scottsdale Prep averaged a 43-10 (383-87) score per game or 33-point margin. The Spartans posted wins of 13-7 over Phoenix Veritas Prep (Aug. 27), 67-20 over Phoenix Madison Highland (Sept. 4), 55-6 over Tucson Santa Rita (Sept. 10), 48-14 over Glendale Trivium Prep (Sept. 17), 62-0 over Madison Highland (Oct. 1), 62-0 over Phoenix North Pointe Prep (Oct. 8), 14-6 over Phoenix Valley Lutheran (Oct. 15), and 41-14 over Scottsdale Coronado (Oct. 22). The loss was 21-20 to Scottsdale Christian (Oct. 29).

Pima has averaged a 29-10 (287-104) score per game or 19-point margin. The Roughriders have wins of 56-14 over Miami (Aug. 27), 52-0 over Tucson Santa Rita (Sept. 17), 53-0 over Scottsdale Christian (Sept. 24), 14-7 over Benson (Sept. 30), 45-0 over Tombstone (Oct. 15), and 42-13 over Bisbee (Oct. 22). The losses were 23-6 to Safford (Sept. 3), 14-0 to Thatcher (Sept.10), and 33-19 to Morenci (Oct. 29).

Holbrook has averaged a 53-15 (476-136) score per game or a 38-point margin. The wins were 52-0 over Fort Defiance Window Rock (Aug. 27), 19-8 over Camp Verde (Sept. 3), 51-28 over Page (Sept. 17), 49-0 over Pinon (Sept. 24), 62-24 over Alchesay (Oct. 1), 63-6 over Keams Canyon Hopi (Oct. 9), and 65-12 over Sanders Valley (Oct. 16). The Roadrunners’ losses were 54-30 to Winslow (Sept. 9) and 61-28 to Saint Johns (Oct. 22).

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Derek Saenz pulled down a Daylen Johnson aerial, eluded Pima sophomore Hayden Blair and raced to the end zone. The Morenci junior capped a five-play drive and gave Morenci a 26-13 advantage with 8:09 remaining.

Willcox has averaged a 37-11 (330-103) score per game or 26-point margin. The Cowboys have wins of 57-0 over Globe (Aug. 27), 17-0 over Tucson Tanque Verde (Sept. 3), 48-14 over Queen Creek San Tan Foothills (Sept. 10), 36-6 over Phoenix Valley Lutheran (Sept. 17), 63-0 over Phoenix North Pointe Prep (Sept. 24), 53-14 over Tombstone (Oct. 1), and 46-7 over Bisbee (Oct. 15). The losses were 27-10 to Morenci (Oct. 22) and 35-0 to Benson (Oct. 29).

Sequoia Pathway has averaged a 37-20 (368-200) score per game or a 17-point margin. The Pumas recorded wins of 42-40 over Gilbert Arete Prep (Sept. 3), 62-16 over Highland Prep (Sept. 10), 30-22 over Bisbee (Sept. 17), 62-0 over Tucson Catalina (Oct. 1), 34-7 over Tanque Verde (Oct. 8), 69-0 over Santa Rita (Oct. 15), and 33-8 over Queen Creek American Leadership – Ironwood (Oct. 29). The losses were 45-12 to Morenci (Aug. 27), 35-6 to Arizona Lutheran (Sept. 24), and 27-13 to Eloy Santa Cruz (Oct. 15).

Benson has a 35-10 (350-82) score per game or a 25-point margin. The wins have been 41-0 over Tucson Tanque Verde (Sept. 10), 57-0 over Phoenix NFL Yet (Sept. 17), 42-7 over Phoenix Veritas Prep (Sept. 24), 56-14 over Bisbee (Oct. 8), 42-7 over Morenci (Oct. 15), 49-6 over Tombstone (Oct. 22), and 35-0 over Willcox (Oct. 29). The losses were 34-21 to Tucson Pusch Ridge Christian (Aug. 27) and 14-7 to Pima (Oct. 1).

Final Top 16 Rankings

The final 2A statewide rankings for 44 teams on Oct. 30 had four remaining the same, six moving up, and six dropping down in the Top 16.

The four San Pedro Region members, Benson stayed at No. 3, Morenci moved up from No. 5 to No. 4, Pima dropped down from No. 6 to No. 7, and Willcox dropped down from No. 7 to No. 8. The other two members also moved, Bisbee up from No. 27 to No. 25 and Tombstone down from No. 30 to No. 31.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: The interior linemen react to a snap during pre-game warm-ups. The quintet, senior tackle Jericho Sanchez, sophomore guard Austyn Nelson, senior guard Shawn Hudman, senior center Dominick Chavez, and junior tackle Jalen Kitcheyan along with rotated senior Richard Trott III and junior Gabe Hernandez, were responsible for opening lanes netting over 3,600 offensive yards. The Wildcats gained 2,805 yards on 290 carries and 799 on 38-79 passes. The average carry was 9.7 yards by 10 different backs and 21.0 yards by six different receivers.

Parker (9-0 overall, 14.5515 rating, 4-0 Agua Fria Region for first) stayed at No. 1, Arizona Lutheran (9-1, 13.0598, 4-0 Gila Region for first) stayed at No. 2, Benson stayed at No. 3, Morenci moved up from No. 5 to No. 4, Gilbert Christian (8-2, 7.4572, 5-0 Salt Region for first) dropped down from No. 4 to No. 5, Camp Verde (8-2, 6.4272, 3-1 Agua Fria Region for second) moved up from No. 8 to No. 6, Pima dropped down from No.6 to No. 7, Willcox dropped down from No. 7 to No. 8, Holbrook moved up from No. 10 to No. 9, Scottsdale Prep dropped down from No. 9 to No. 10, Saint Johns (6-4, 3.4268, 2-1 Little Colorado Region for third) stayed at No. 11, Scottsdale Christian (5-3, 2.5995, 2-0 Verde Region for first) moved up from No. 14 to No. 12, Whiteriver Alchesay moved up from No. 16 to No. 13, Sequoia Pathway moved up from No. 15 to No. 14, Tanque Verde (6-3, 1.0601, 3-1 Rillito Region up for second) dropped down from No. 13 No. 15, and Chandler Prep (6-4, 0.8116, 2-2 Gila Region for third) dropped down from No. 12 to No. 16.

2021 State Tourney

The bottom two teams in the Top 16, No. 15 Tanque Verde and No. 16 Chandler Prep are out of the state meet as No. 21 Trivium Prep (5-4, minus 3.3679, 3-0 Hassayampa Region for first) and No. 22 Teec Nos Pos Red Mesa (4-2, minus 4.5646, 2-0 San Juan Region for first) are automatic qualifiers as region champions. Each of the nine region champions is an automatic qualifier along with seven at-large entrants based on rankings.

The San Pedro Region has four entrants, the Little Colorado Region three, both the Agua Fria Region and the Verde Region two teams apiece, and the Gila Region, the Hassayampa Region, the Salt Region, the San Juan Region, and the Rillito Region have one each in the state meet.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Daylen Johnson faked a handoff on first down and sprinted down the sideline untouched for a 75-yard touchdown. It took 13 seconds and gave Morenci a 20-0 advantage with 4:20 left in the first half. In pursuit were Pima juniors Leland Thompson (40) and Wyatt Wiltbank (44).

Pairings for the first round are No. 16 Red Mesa at No. 1 Parker, No. 9 Holbrook at No. 8 Willcox, No. 12 Scottsdale Christian at No. 5 Gilbert Christian, and No. 13 Alchesay at No. 4 Morenci in the upper bracket on Friday, Nov. 5.

The lower bracket has No. 14 Sequoia Pathway at No. 3 Benson, No. 11 Saint Johns at No. 6 Camp Verde, No. 10 Scottsdale Prep at No. 6 Pima, and No. 16 Trivium Prep at No. 2 Arizona Lutheran.

Winners meet in the quarterfinals on Nov. 12 at the higher seed. The semifinals are on Nov. 20 and the championship on Nov. 27.

Final regular-season results

Morenci’s 2021 opponents finished a combined 50-45 (.526) overall during the regular season. Maricopa Sequoia Pathway is 7-3 (.700), Eagar Round Valley 9-1 (.900), Globe 1-8 (.111), Phoenix Madison Highland 1-9 (.100), Saint Johns 6-4 (.600), Bisbee 4-6 (.400), Tombstone 2-7 (.222), Benson 7-2 (.778), Willcox 7-2 (.778), and Pima 6-3 (.667).

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Third-year Morenci head coach Joseph Garcia visits with his former high school coach and mentor Jim Hughes. Garcia played for Hughes as a student in Duncan and was an assistant to him while both were in Willcox.

The six San Pedro Region members were a combined 34-22 (.607) overall. The other 38 teams, the four in the Little Colorado Region had a combined overall record of 19-14 (.613), the five in the Gila Region 27-23 (.540), the five in the Agua Fria Region 23-25 (.479), the five in the Verde Region 20-24 (.417), the five in the Hassayampa Region 17-24 (.415), the six in the Salt Region 24-32 (.429), the five in the Rillito Region 21-28 (.429), and the 3-team San Juan Region 6-12 (.333).

Results of the San Pedro Region contests last week were Benson defeated Willcox 35-0, Morenci defeated Pima 33-19, and Bisbee defeated Tombstone 48-26 on Oct. 29.

Bisbee finished the season with an average 27-31 (272-308) score per game or 4-point deficit and Tombstone a 16-38 (147-342) score per game or a 22-point deficit.

Morenci’s non-region opponents went 2-3 last week. Sequoia Pathway defeated Queen Creek American Leadership – Ironwood 33-8, Round Valley defeated Winslow 49-6 in 3A East Region play, Miami defeated Globe 57-6 in Salt Region play, North Point Prep defeated Madison Highland 52-20 in Verde Region play, and Whiteriver Alchesay defeated Saint Johns 38-35 in Little Colorado Region play on Oct. 29.

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