Morenci dominates Benson

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Michael Casillas (7) runs through the lanes provided by teammates. The Morenci senior scored three TDs while averaging 11.5 (18-207) yards per carry, and accounted for nearly two-thirds of the team’s rushing yardage in a 35-0 victory over Benson on Friday.

Casillas runs for more than 200 yards

By Jon Johnson

BENSON – They’re calling it their revenge tour and the second notch got scratched off 35-0 over Benson last Friday night. The first notch was a 24-6 win over Eagar Round Valley on Aug. 25, with Morenci’s next intended victim (Pima) up this Thursday.

First-year head coach Rishard Davis’ tenure bringing Morenci into the 3A Conference has gone well so far with the Wildcats sporting a 3-0 record and tied with Sabino atop the 3A South Region. 

“We’re going to give it our best shot and see where it goes,” Davis said.

Jon Johnson Video/Gila Herald-Cover Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo

The Wildcats have dominated on the defensive side in its first three games, giving up just one score (6 points). 

“I just think it’s just our boys coming down (and) doing their individual jobs – not trying to get us out of their element and just trying to make sure they’re doing their individual jobs every play,” is what made the difference Davis said. 

The Bobcats couldn’t muster any offense against Morenci and began with a quick 3-and-out. For the game, Benson finished with five punts and three interceptions. The Bobcats had 26 yards passing and 56 yards rushing for 82 total yards. 

Conversely for the Wildcats, Michael Casillas had more yards on one rush in the first quarter than Benson’s team had for the whole game. Casillas finished with 207 yards on 18 carries for an average of 11.5 yards per carry with three touchdowns.

“I couldn’t have done it without my guys,” Casillas said. “We all stuck together and we all came out with the win. I couldn’t ask for anything better.”

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: First-year Morenci head coach Rishard Davis talks with senior Justin Leatherman (78) as the game nears a conclusion.

Davis said while he hadn’t been especially pleased with the offense the first two games he liked what he saw against Benson and that it takes time for an offense to gel. 

“They need that extra time – those extra reps just to get comfortable,” Davis said. “That’s normal. You see that in the NFL also (and) in college football as well. Once the offense gets momentum and gets in rhythm, we’ll get to where we need to be.”

Donovan Vozza broke the ice for the Wildcats in the first quarter with a 20-yard TD run. Vozza finished with 38 yards on the ground on 5 carries. 

After going up 7 – 0 (kicker Anthony Ballesteros went 5-5 on extra points for the night), Morenci turned the defensive heat back up and Tristen Sanchez sacked Benson quarterback Dalton Crockett. That forced another punt and the field position switched. 

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Anthony Ballesteros (24) split the uprights five times in as many conversion kick attempts.

No problem, enter Michael Casillas, who took the handoff down the right side, made a defender miss, and was off to the races. Roughly 83 yards later, and Casillas hit pay dirt and put Morenci up 14-0 with 2:50 left in the opening quarter.

“They give me a hole – I take advantage of it and try to make the best out of the run,” Casillas said. “I felt like they opened a lot of holes and (we) made some success out of it tonight.” 

Morenci continued to move the ball early in the second quarter and finished a drive with sort of a trick play on 4th and 6. The center directly snapped the ball to upback Andrew Chavez, and as the defensive ends ran past him toward Morenci quarterback Joey Seballos who served as a decoy, Chavez put his head down and pushed forward 13 yards to pay dirt to put Morenci up 21-0. 

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci junior Christopher Lopez (23) runs down Benson senior Daniel Hackett (36) following a pass reception. Hackett advanced the ball 20 of the 26 yards in four catches made by the Bobcats.

But they weren’t done yet, and Emilio Roybal intercepted Crockett and returned it 24 yards to the 16. Morenci capitalized on the turnover with a 1-yard TD run by Casillas (his second of the day) and Morenci went into halftime up 28-0. 

The song remained the same when the teams convened for the third quarter and on the first play Casillas took it 70 yards to the house, blowing past four defenders who had the angle on him along the way. Unfortunately, one of the refs thought they saw a penalty of some sort and they brought the play back. 

That gave Seballos a chance to toss the pigskin bit and he hit Sanchez, who added another 14 yards after the catch to put Morenci back in Benson territory. 

The Bobcats showed some life, however, and Rawley Evans intercepted Seballos at the Bobcats’ own 10-yard line to end the threat. It was the only turnover for Morenci’s starters. 

The Wildcats’ defense forced yet another punt and Morenci began to run the clock down. The possession ended with Casillas getting his third touchdown of the night off a 15-yard run to put Morenci up for good, 35-0. 

“We have a lot of seniors returning on our defense,” Casillas said. “I believe we’re one of the toughest. We all stick together – we all run to the ball. I couldn’t ask for a better team.”

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: The Benson Bobcats made their third home entrance against the Morenci Wildcats on Sept. 1. The visitors left Jerry P. Lee Complex with a 35-0 win, having left with a 35-point (7-42) deficit in 2021.

The Wildcats kept the Bobcats off the scoreboard with two more interceptions in the fourth quarter (one by Julien Aragon and one by Xavier Fernandez). However, Morenci’s reserves on offense turned the ball over on downs and had one punt before the mercy-rule running clock game ended. 

“We’re calling this year a revenge tour,” Casillas said. “From my sophomore year, we’ve lost to the past two teams we played and we’re hoping to get back at Pima.”

Morenci will next travel to face Pima (2-0) on Thursday, Sept. 7, starting at 7 p.m. 

In other local prep football action: 

Pima (2-0) held on to defeat Scottsdale Christian 23-20. The Roughriders will next host Morenci on Thursday, Sept. 7, starting at 7 p.m. 

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Eleven of a 17-member spirit line was on hand to support the Wildcats in Benson. Cheering, from left, were senior Alice Aguilar, senior Nevaeh Moreno, junior Isabella Campbell, freshman JacyAnna Meza, sophomore Kennadi Blackman, and junior Hailey Skinner.

Florence came back to defeat Safford 29-26. The Bulldogs (1-2) will next travel to Tucson to face Rincon/University on Friday, Sept. 8, starting at 7 p.m.   

Valley Christian (3-0) had a goal-line stand with 5 seconds left in the game to hold on to defeat Thatcher, 15-14. The Eagles (1-2) will next host Eagar Round Valley on Friday, Sept. 8, starting at 7 p.m. 

San Manuel defeated Duncan 50-12. The Wildkats (1-2) will next travel to face St. David on Friday, Sept. 8, starting at 7 p.m. 

Superior defeated Fort Thomas 60-12. The Apaches will next host Dishchii’bikoh on Friday, Sept. 8, starting at 7 p.m.