Off-season: a time for individual improvement geared for 2021 campaign

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Grant Ashby stretches out for a pass against Morenci junior Derek Saenz. The Pima junior was one of several student-athletes taking advantage of the 7-on-7 passing sessions being allowed to occur again. The sessions continue on Tuesday evenings with the season opener for both teams being Aug. 27.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

THATCHER – Individual football skills and techniques are being honed for the betterment of each teams’ success during the upcoming season. Three area teams are among the ones working toward individual off-season improvements, hitting the weight rooms and competing against one another in 7-on-7 passing sessions as well as big man challenges. Two sessions have been held at the Eastern Arizona College football facilities, on June 1 and 8.

Morenci, Pima, and Thatcher squared off against one another in the passing sessions while Morenci and Thatcher also fielded enough linemen for the big man challenges on June 1. Pima did not have enough linemen to participate in the first session but had three available on June 8.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Quarterback Daylen Johnson spots an open receiver and does his best to complete a pass.

Thirty-one Wildcats were on hand for the second session, taking on both Thatcher and Pima in 7-on-7 passing plays. Scores were not kept, only passing plays run against one another during timed 20-minute increments.

The big man challenge on June 8 had Thatcher winning the Tire Flip, the Medicine Ball Toss (117-106), and three Tug-of-War face-offs. Morenci was first in the Ring Sprint with a time of 46.2, the Agility Relay with a time of 117.7, and the Combine Drill with a time of 130.7.

Thatcher won the June 1 Hex Bar Carry, the most individual 185-pound reps with 22, and three Tug-of-War face-offs. Morenci prevailed in the Medicine Ball Carry, the Obstacle Course with a combined 29.8 time, and the Combine Drill with a 48.9 time.

In junior varsity completion on June 8, Pima won the Agility Drill in 124.0, the Tire Flip in 231.1, and the Medicine Ball Toss 98-94; Morenci was first in the Ring Sprint with 45, and Thatcher the Combine Drill with 136.0.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Declan Carlton digs deep inside to lift 185 pounds as many times as possible during a Big Man Challenge. The Thatcher senior topped out at 22 repetitions to finish first in the individual event.

Thatcher won the June 1 younger team’s Hex Bar Carry, the Obstacle Course with 31.7, and the Combine Drill with 52.8 while Morenci was first in the Medicine Ball Carry.

Pima hosts Thatcher on Sept. 10 and is in Morenci for the 2021 regular season 10-game schedule and region finale on Oct. 29. The rest of the Roughriders’ schedule includes home games with Scottsdale Christian (Sept. 24), Willcox (Oct. 8), and Tombstone (Oct. 15). The road games are at San Carlos (Aug. 27), Safford (Sept. 3), Tucson Santa Rita (Sept. 17), Benson (Oct. 1), Bisbee (Oct. 22), and Morenci.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Senior Jericho Sanchez flips a tire as part of the big man challenge, won by Morenci over Thatcher.

Morenci has Sequoia Pathway (Aug. 27), Globe (Sept. 10), Phoenix Madison Highland Prep (Sept. 17), Saint Johns (Sept. 24), Tombstone (Oct. 8), Willcox (Oct. 22), and Pima at home. The Wildcats visit Eagar Round Valley (Sept. 3), Bisbee (Oct. 1), and Benson (Oct. 15).

Benson, Bisbee, Pima, Tombstone, and Willcox are with Morenci in the 2A San Pedro Region.

Thatcher has 3A South Region opponents Sahuarita, Tucson Pusch Ridge Christian, Tucson Sabino, and Safford. The Eagles face Sahuarita (Aug. 27), Sabino (Sept. 17), Douglas (Sept. 24), Gilbert-North American Leadership (Oct. 15), and Safford (Oct. 29) at home plus are at Florence (Sept. 3), Pima, Tucson Empire (Oct. 1), Queen Creek San Tan Foothills (Oct. 8), and Pusch Ridge (Oct. 22).

The Eagles opened the 2020 campaign with a 26-0 shutout of the Roughriders, and the Wildcats topped the Roughriders 25-15 in region play.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Brendon Enriquez concentrates on catching the ball during warm-ups for a 7-on-7 session at Eastern Arizona College.

All three teams took part in the play-in round. The 2A No. 16 Pima Roughriders (2-4 overall, minus 4.3966 rating) ended last season with a 28-7 loss to region champion and top-ranked eventual state runner-up Benson, No. 5 Morenci received a forfeit win over No. 12 Maricopa Sequoia Pathway, and 3A No. 12 Thatcher eliminated No. 5 Chandler Arizona College Prep 27-22.

In the quarterfinals, No. 8 Morenci (7-2, 7.0587) forfeited a 2A quarterfinal round pairing with Benson because of the global health crisis bug quarantine, and No. 8 Thatcher (5-4, 7.7724) bowed out of the 3A quarterfinals 43-20 to top-ranked and state runner-up Yuma Catholic.

Thatcher’s three regular-season losses were 17-13 to 3A state champion Snowflake (Oct. 9), 58-26 to state semifinalist Pusch Ridge (Oct. 16), and 28-14 to state semifinalist Gilbert North American Leadership (Oct. 23). Snowflake was ranked No. 2, American Leadership No. 3, and Pusch Ridge No. 4 following the 3A play-in round.

Joseph Garcia is in his third season as Morenci’s head coach, and both Jim Hughes (Pima) and Dan Jones (Thatcher) are in their second seasons.

To view a photo album from the practices click here.