Morenci enters stacked 3A South for football

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Michael Casillas (7) gets taken down by Pima’s Seth Russell in the 2A State Championship game won by Pima. Morenci has been moved up into the 3A South Region with Safford and Thatcher.

By Jon Johnson

GRAHAM/GREENLEE COUNTIES – Lions, Bulldogs, Eagles, and Sabercats, oh my!

The Morenci Wildcats’ foray into the 3A Conference for football will see them in a region packed with top-par teams in what is, perhaps, the toughest region in the 3A Conference. 

Morenci was moved up from 2A by the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s (AIA) football reclassification committee and lost its appeal. The AIA recently released regions for football and placed Morenci in the 3A South Region along with state runner-up Thatcher, and playoff teams (Tucson) Pusch Ridge, and (Tucson) Sabino, and Safford. The regions pertain only to football.  

Photo By Steve Carter/Special to the Gila Herald: The Thatcher Eagles take the field for a playoff game last season. The Morenci Wildcats will now be in the same region as Thatcher in the 3A South.

While the 3A South Region is stacked, it’s not like there was much elsewhere for Morenci to go. The 3A East Region includes (Lakeside) Blue Ridge, Fountain Hills, Payson, (Eagar) Round Valley, and Show Low. From top to bottom, the 3A Conference may be the most competitive in the state.  

2A Conference

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: The Pima Roughriders are the 2022 2A State Football Champions. They will look to defend their title while competing in the 2A Black Region next season.

Over in the 2A Conference, state champion Pima has been placed in the 2A Black Region and will have some new regional opponents to battle. The region includes Alchesay, Globe, Holbrook, Miami, San Carlos, and St. Johns. 

In the 2A San Pedro Region, Benson returns to 2A after one season in 3A and is joined in the same region with Palo Verde Magnet, which also returns to 2A from 3A. Both teams won their appeals to move back down a conference. Joining them in the 2A San Pedro Region will be Bisbee, (Tucson) Catalina, (Tucson) Santa Rita, (Tucson) Tanque Verde, Tombstone, and Willcox.