Local football playoff teams all have home openers

Photo By Steve Carter/Special to the Gila Herald: Thatcher head coach Dan Jones celebrates with the team after a win over Sabino. Thatcher begins its post-season play Friday night hosting the Benson Bobcats in the first round of the 3A State Playoffs.

If victorious, all will host a second-round game as well

By Jon Johnson


GRAHAM AND GREENLEE COUNTIES – The three local teams in the state football playoffs, Thatcher in 3A and Pima and Morenci in 2A, all will host opening-round games in the state playoffs on Friday. If victorious, they will also host a second-round game next week. 


In 3A, the No. 1 Thatcher Eagles (5-0 region, 10-0 overall) will put their unbeaten season on the line at John Mickelson Field at Eastern Arizona College on Friday against the No. 16 Benson Bobcats (1-4 region, 5-5 overall). 

Thatcher previously defeated Benson 51-0 on the same field on Oct. 7. If Thatcher is victorious, the Eagles will host the winner of the No. 8 Valley Christian versus No. 9 Mohave game. The second round game will be held Friday, Nov. 11. 

Photo By Steve Carter/Special to the Gila Herald: Ayden Bingham (26) and the Thatcher Eagles look to go far in the post-season this year.

If Thatcher makes it to the semifinals at Mountain Pointe High School on Friday, Nov. 19, they could face tough contests against possibly No. 5 Paradise Honors or No. 4 Show Low. 

But on the other side of the bracket sits No. 2 Eastmark (4-0 region, 9-1 overall), whose record is only blemished by a 30-31 loss to Thatcher on Aug. 26. After the loss, Eastmark rebounded with a comeback 36-33 victory over ALA-Gilbert North, and then nobody came close to them the rest of the season, with a 56-19 victory over Sabino being the closest contest. Will both Thatcher and Eastmark make it to the state championship game for their rubber match? 


In 2A, No. 1 Pima (5-0 region, 9-1 overall) switched places with No. 2 Morenci (4-1 region, 9-1 overall) following the instant classic 21-20 Pima victory to end the regular season. 

Pima will open its playoff season by hosting No. 16 Chinle (3-0 region, 3-6 overall) at Edd Hubbard Field in Pima on Friday, starting at 7 p.m. Watch the football game via the Pima Booster Club live stream here.

Photo By Steve Carter/Special to the Gila Herald: The Pima Roughriders are bucking for a state championship.

Chinle is the San Juan Region Champion and earned an automatic playoff bid. Its only wins are in its region, (Sept. 30 v. Red Mesa 50-6, Oct. 21 v. Tuba City 40-6, and Oct. 28 v. Many Farms 45-0) however, the wins are lopsided. The Chile Wildcats have had close contests against Winslow (16-20) to open the season and St. Johns (28-38) on Sept. 16.   

If Pima advances, it will host the next playoff game on Friday, Nov. 11, versus either No. 8 Camp Verde or No. 9 San Tan Charter, with a possible semifinal against Willcox. If the Roughriders make it to the championship game, they could see a rematch with Morenci in what could be an epic showdown. 


Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Tristen Sanchez scores a 39-yard TD against Pima.

No. 2 Morenci (4-1 region, 9-1 overall) will open the playoffs hosting No. 15 Tanque Verde (4-1 region, 5-5 overall) at “The Hill” in Morenci on Friday, Nov. 4, starting at 7 p.m. 

Morenci previously beat Tanque Verde 44-0 when the two teams met in the regular season on Aug. 26. 

Tanque Verde has wins of 57-0 over Bisbee (Oct. 14) and 68-0 over Tombstone (Oct. 21), but ended the regular season with a 6-55 loss to No. 4 Willcox. Morenci defeated Willcox 21-14 at home on Sept. 16.  

If Morenci advances, it will host the next round as well on Friday, Nov. 11, versus either No. 7 Tonopah Valley or No. 10 Heritage.

Morenci could see a possible semifinal matchup against No. 3 Scottsdale Christian or No. 6 Scottsdale Prep, and, of course, the Wildcats are salivating for another chance at Pima for all the marbles in the state championship game if both teams make it that far.