Morenci hands Willcox its first loss of the season

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Derek Saenz races down field. Saenz ran for 128 yards and a touchdown as Morenci handed Willcox its first defeat of the season, 27-10.

Cowboys drop from first to fourth in San Pedro Region

By Jon Johnson

Jon Johnson Video/Gila Herald

MORENCI – The previously unbeaten Willcox Cowboys (2-1 region, 6-1 conference, 7-1 overall) climbed “The Hill” on Friday atop the 2A San Pedro Region. But by the end of the night, the Cowboys suffered their first loss of the season and dropped into fourth place with Morenci (3-1 region, 7-1 conference, 7-2 overall) one spot ahead in third. 

The Wildcats played far from a perfect game, however, its defense and ownership of the line of scrimmage were clearly evident. Morenci ran all over Willcox all night, while Willcox made one great offensive play and had two successful scoring drives. In the end, Morenci won handily, 27-10.

Willcox couldn’t get anything started offensively to begin the game and punted on its first two possessions on consecutive 3-and-outs. 

Conversely, Morenci scored on its first possession after some big runs by sophomore Michael Casillas. Casillas broke the ice with a 22-yard score to put Morenci up 7-0 with 6:30 left in the first quarter. Casillas would end up rushing 30 times in the game for 214 yards and two TDs.  

Morenci moved the ball well on its second possession but a mishandled snap led to a quarterback scramble on fourth down that didn’t convert. 

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Michael Casillas (7) examines which hole to hit. Casillas finished with a game-high 214 yards rushing on 30 rushes, with two TDs.

The Willcox offense had a breakthrough as Marcus Olivares tore off a deep run that was thwarted from scoring by a touchdown-saving tackle by Gavin Baca at the 12-yard line. 

Morenci’s defense held, and Willcox settled for a 25-yard field goal to get on the board but still down 7-3. 

The Wildcats are also known for their explosive big plays and they came right back on their next possession as Saenz tuned the corner and juked Kash Macumber out of his pads. Saenz then raced down the sideline 65 yards to pay dirt to put Morenci up 14-3 as the teams went into halftime. 

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Willcox’s Marcus Olivares (5) gains an unfair advantage as Morenci’s Patrick Chavez (13) is held on the play.

It was more ground dominance for Saenz and Morenci in the third as Saenz broke off another big run and peeled off 38 yards before being shoved out of bounds. Saenz finished the night with six carries for 128 yards.  

Chavez finished the drive with a 7-yard TD run and Morenci was up 20-3. Overall, Morenci ran for 407 yards on the night.  

The Willcox offense finally started clicking late in the third quarter and early into the fourth, as Fuentes began hitting his stride. At one point, Fuentes threw across his body while running to his left to hit Macumber for a first down. 

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci quarterback Daylen Johnson avoids a sack attempt.

The Cowboys finished their best drive of the night with a 3-yard plunge from Pando to cut into Morenci’s lead, 20-10, early in the fourth quarter. 

Morenci easily moved the ball down the field again, however, another mishandled snap led to a fumble recovery for Willcox’s Fabian Moreno deep in Cowboys’ territory. 

Willcox was later faced with a 4th and 7 late in the game, and a highly-pressured Fuentes was unable to convert on the pass attempt. Defensively, the Wildcats were led by Shawn Hudman who had 10 tackles (8 solo), Brandon Enriquez, who had 10 tackles (6 solo), and Kaden Summer, who had 9 tackles (7 solo).  

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Michael Casillas (7) follows his lineman before slipping through the cracks.

Casillas finished off the Cowboys with a 7-yard TD and Morenci defeated Willcox 27-10. 

Morenci will next travel to take on the No. 6 Pima Roughriders (3-0 region, 6-0 conference, 6-2 overall) which sit atop the 2A San Pedro Region. The game will take place at Pima High School on Friday, Oct. 29, starting at 7 p.m. Willcox will host the No. 3 Benson Bobcats (3-1 region, 6-1 conference, 6-2 overall) on Friday, Oct. 29, starting at 7 p.m.

In other local prep football action: 

In 3A, The Safford Bulldogs (1-2 region, 2-3 conference, 6-3 overall) dropped their second region game in a row, losing to Sabino, 14-49. Safford was last ranked No. 11 overall in the 3A Conference and are currently No. 4 in the 3A South Region. 

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: A mini-cheer leader helps pump up the crowd.

The Thatcher Eagles (2-1 region, 4-2 conference, 6-3 overall) also lost their second game in a row, losing to Pusch Ridge, 14-41. The loss dropped Thatcher into second place in the 3A South Region standings, and temporarily put Pusch Ridge in the top spot at 3-1. However, Sabino will most assuredly beat Sahuarita, improving their region mark to 3-1 and they have the tiebreaker over Pusch Ridge by way of a 27-16 victory on Oct. 8. However, if Thatcher beats Safford, Thatcher will finish 3-1 in the region and have the tiebreaker over Sabino via a 45-28 victory on Sept. 17. 

What we do know is Thatcher will host Safford for its rivalry game as the final regular-season game at John Mickelson Field at Eastern Arizona College on Friday, Oct. 29, starting at 7 p.m. 

In 2A, Pima remained unbeaten in region play with a 42-13 victory over Bisbee on the road. 

Pima will host Morenci in the last regular-season game on Friday, Oct. 29, starting at 7 p.m. If Pima wins, they will be crowned San Pedro Regional Champions. If Morenci wins, there will likely be a three-way tie that will have to be decided by the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s algorithm. 

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