Pima’s Wilkins, John take Region Coach, Player of the Year

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Pima head coach Josh Wilkins, left, and junior Jaxon John, right, have been awarded the 2A Salt Region Coach of the Year and Player of the Year, respectively.

Morenci takes region offensive and defensive player of the year

By Jon Johnson


PHOENIX – Being the top two teams in all of the 2A conference, it came as no surprise that Pima and Morenci swept the regional awards. 

In his first year as head coach, Josh Wilkins was named 2A Salt Region Coach of the Year. 

Wilkins has guided Pima to an overall No. 1 seed in the state tournament and a 2A Salt Region Championship. The Roughriders’ only loss in the regular season was to 3A overall No. 1 Thatcher.

“It’s a group effort here,” Wilkins said magnanimously. “We all help each other out. I do more managing of what’s going on than coaching right now. It’s really an award for my staff. I just want to thank them for the work that they put in making sure our boys are where they’re supposed to be and when they’re supposed to be there, and so thanks to my staff. I think this win is more for them.”

2A Salt Region Player of the Year – Jaxon John 

If you look up “utility player” in Pima’s dictionary and you will simply see a photo of Jaxon John. The Pima junior does a little bit of everything for Pima, including handling placekicker duties, returning kicks, rushing, receiving, passing out of the backfield, and more.

File Photo By Stan Bonifacio Sports Photography: Jaxon John jukes a Safford defender on a kickoff return.

“I just gotta say for all the people out there that wanted it you just gotta work hard and you just gotta keep working even when things get hard and you gotta keep your head up and keep moving,” John said. “I just want to say thank you to all my teammates for having a great year and giving me this opportunity to do great things.” 

2A Salt Region Offensive Player of the Year – Michael Casillas

Few running backs invoke the hair on the back of fans’ nicks stand as much as when Mickey Casillas gets the ball. There’s a split second where on each carry he could bust through and speed away. 

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Michael Casillas makes a move against Scottsdale Christian earlier in the season.

2A Salt Region Defensive Player of the Year – Tristen Sanchez

Having a one-two punch of offense and defense is one reason why Morenci was two points shy of an undefeated season. And few players were as feared as Tristen Sanchez, of Morenci. 

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Tristen Sanchez (82) sheds a Safford defender en route to pay dirt.

2A Salt All-Region 1st Team:

Jaxon John (defensive back), Hayden Blair (defensive back), Seth Russell (defensive lineman), Pepper Hughes (defensive lineman), Chris Serna (defensive lineman), Tuddy Smart (linebacker), Tucker Wilkins (linebacker), Chris Serna (offensive lineman), Pepper Hughes (offensive lineman) Jaxon John (offensive utility/flex), Jaxon John (placekicker), Jaxon John (punt returner), Pierce Ashby (punter), Grant Ashby (receiver), Wyatt Wiltbank (running back) – Pima; Derek Saenz (defensive back), Tristen Sanchez (defensive lineman), Donovan Vozza (defensive lineman), Rick Funari (linebacker), Patrick Chavez (linebacker), Andrew Chavez (long snapper), Gabriel Hernandez (offensive lineman), Austyn Nelson (offensive lineman), Derek Saenz (offensive utility/flex), Daylen Johnson (quarterback), Tristen Sanchez (receiver), Michael Casillas (running back) – Morenci. 

2A Salt All-Region 2nd Team:

Grant Ashby (defensive back), Jeremiah Martinez (defensive lineman), Wyatt Wiltbank (linebacker), Brock Haws (offensive lineman), Tucker Wilkins (offensive lineman), Seth Russell (quarterback), Leland Thompson (receiver) – Pima; Daylen Johnson (defensive back), Andrew Chavez (defensive lineman), Austyn Nelson (defensive lineman), Dillen Aker (defensive utility/flex), Derek Saenz (kickoff returner), Jalen Kitcheyan (offensive lineman), Austyn Nelson (placekicker), Gavin Baca (receiver), Patrick Chavez (running back) – Morenci. 

Honorable Mention:

Jaxon McBiles (receiver), Sam Ray (defensive lineman), Nathan Skiba (defensive lineman) – Pima; Jarel Diaz (offensive lineman), Marcus Lucero (linebacker), John Provencio (defensive back), Emilio Roybal (defensive back), Joey Seballos (defensive back) – Morenci.