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.
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.
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.
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.