Morenci opens season feasting on Eagles

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Michael Casiillas makes a move. Casillas finished with two TDs as Morenci defeated Scottsdale Christian, 30-6.

By Jon Johnson

MORENCI – The visiting Scottsdale Christian Eagles shocked the Morenci faithful with an opening play 65-yard touchdown pass, but the Wildcats went on a 30-0 run after that to declaw the Eagles, 36-6 for an opening season win at Lawson Stadium on Friday night. 

The game started two hours earlier than normal in an attempt to avoid any stoppage due to weather. While it drizzled for roughly three quarters, the time move did as intended and the game was completed.

“Kudos to those kids, man, for coming out and dealing with adversity,” said Morenci head coach Joe Garcia. “The weather wasn’t ideal; Scottsdale Christian has a great team. They put together a great early drive and then our kids buckled down and got after it. I couldn’t be prouder of them.”  

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Derek Saenz races down the sideline on his way to an 85-yard TD.

The wet weather (along with some first-game jitters) provided a number of fumbles, with Morenci coughing the ball up 10 times and losing four of them, while Scottsdale Christian – which is a more pass-oriented team – fumbled four times, losing two of them. In all, Scottsdale had 13 turnovers on the night, compared to eight for Morenci. 

Jon Johnson Video/Gila Herald: Morenci versus Scottsdale Christian highlight video.

Along with taking better care of the ball, coach Garcia said he would like to see the team reduce the number of penalties it gets in the coming weeks. Two kick returns for touchdowns by Derek Saenz – a 49-yard punt return in the second quarter and a 90-yard kickoff return in the third quarter – were negated by blocks in the back. A big run by fullback Patrick Chavez was also negated by a penalty but he immediately followed that up with a 47-yard TD run.  

“The biggest thing is we gotta clean up the penalties,” Garcia said. “I think we left two or three touchdowns off the table there because of penalties. If we clean those up, we’ll be alright.” 

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Tristen Sanchez recovers a fumble after a bad snap.

Morenci’s defense not only stifled the opposing team’s offense, but it also set up its own offense with short fields and easy scoring opportunities. 

Morenci’s initial points were set up by Scottsdale’s miscue when the quarterback failed to handle a low snap. Morenci’s Tristen Sanchez – who was in the mug of the Eagles’ quarterbacks frequently – recovered the ball at the 5-yard line to set the Wildcats up with a first and goal. The Wildcats capitalized on the turnover with a Michael Casillas 1-yard TD run followed by a Daylen Johnson QB bootleg for the 2-point conversion to put Morenci up 8-6 early in the first quarter. 

Saenz showed off his speed a possession later when he took a pitch at his own 15-yard line and proceeded to blow by everyone else down the left sideline 85 yards to pay dirt. Casillas added the 2-point conversion and Morenci was rolling, 16-6. 

Chavez finished the scoring in the first quarter with his 47-yard scamper into the end zone to put Morenci up 22-6 at the break. He ended up leading the team with 137 yards rushing on 16 carries for an average of 8.6 yards per carry. 

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: The Morenci defense stifled Scottsdale after the opening possession. Here, Derek Saenz (2) prepares to strike.

The teams went back and forth throughout the third quarter, with Morenci finally putting Scottsdale away in the fourth with Casillas’ second TD of the day ( a 5-yard run) and 2-point conversion toss from Johnson to Sanchez. As the final horn sounded, the fireworks exploded, and the players sang their fight song while basking in their 30-6 opening day victory.

Morenci will next host the Tanque Verde Hawks of the 2A San Pedro. The game is scheduled to take place at 7 p.m. at Lawson Stadium in Morenci. 

In other local football action:

Nearly all of the local schools that had games were victorious. 

In 3A, Safford (1-0) defeated the Phoenix Christian Cougars 27-20, and Thatcher (1-0) defeated the Round Valley Elks 42-14.

In 2A, Pima didn’t have a game and will open its season next week by hosting Safford on Friday at 7 p.m.  

In 1A, Fort Thomas (0-1) lost to the Baboquivari Warriors 6-50, and Duncan (0-1) lost to Lordsburg, N.M. 14-38. (The Fort Thomas and Duncan scores have been corrected since its initial publication.) 

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Michael Casillas scores Morenci’s first touchdown of the season against Scottsdale Christian on Friday night.