Region clash in Morenci involves No. 3 Cats with No. 5 Elks

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Senior running back Isaac Pacheco uses blockers Omar Ortega (50) and Collin Batchelder (17) while escaping the grasp of Cobre senior Felix Dominguez. Pacheco scored on runs of one, 70, and 76 yards against the homecoming visitors Sept. 28.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

MORENCI – The third-ranked Morenci Wildcats welcome the No. 5 Eagar Round Valley Elks for a Black Region game Friday, Oct. 12.

Round Valley (6-1, 1-0 region) has won the last seven pairings and a 23-11 (279-136) average score per game over Morenci (6-1 overall, 0-1 region). The Elks are 10-4 versus the Wildcats since 1972, 3-3 for games held in Morenci, and 1-2 for games held in Lawson Stadium since 1982. The visitors bring a 3-0 road mark while the host is 3-0 in Lawson Stadium.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Junior Zachary Esparza slows down Cobre senior Johnny Villines as senior Leander Kitcheyan sheds sophomore Jeremy Spurgeon to complete the stop.

The Elks have an average score per game of 29-11 (201-79) or a margin of 18, with wins of 21-14 at 3A No. 19 Show Low (2-5, 1-1) on Aug. 17, 20-19 at No. 18 Eloy Santa Cruz (2-5, 1-1) on Aug. 31, 17-0 over 3A Gilbert American Leadership (3-3, 2-0) on Sept. 7, 28-21 at No. 10 Phoenix Christian (5-2, 2-0) on Sept. 21, 54-7 over No. 6 Saint Johns (6-1, 1-1) on Sept. 28, and 48-0 over No. 15 Benson (4-3, 2-0) on Oct. 5. The lone loss was 20-19 at home to New Mexico Silver (3-3, 0-0) on Aug. 24.

Meanwhile, the Wildcats have wins of 66-0 over No. 37 Tucson Santa Rita (0-7, 0-2) on Aug. 24, 21-6 over Benson on Aug. 31, 38-6 over No. 11 Willcox (5-2, 2-0) on Sept. 7, 42-12 over Eloy Santa Cruz on Sept. 14, 64-20 over No. 23 Bisbee (2-5, 0-1) on Sept. 21, and 39-6 over New Mexico Bayard Cobre (2-5, 0-0) om Sept 28. The loss was 15-0 to the No. 1 Eagles (7-0, 2-0) in Thatcher Aug. 17.

Morenci’s coaching staff reminded the Wildcats it is “another opportunity to get better.”

Last week, the Wildcats had a bye, but downed the Cobre Indians for homecoming two weeks ago. Morenci led 26-6 after three quarters, 20-0 at halftime, and 6-0 following the first quarter.

The teams had possession of the ball 11 times apiece, but the visitors could not score until the third quarter, during their eighth possession.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Seniors Nathan Willey and Mary-Natalie Ogas were crowned homecoming king and queen, respectively, during halftime activities Sept. 28. Junior Brigid Silvester and sophomore Sammy Sauls were selected princes and prince, respectively.

Cobre marched 61 yards on its final possession after going three and out twice before, but ended two yards short of the goal line as the buzzer sounded.

“I challenged the reserves,” second-year Morenci Head Coach David Gallegos said. “I’m super proud of them.”

The Indians were stopped twice on 1st-and-goal from the three in the closing eight seconds. A penalty on an incomplete pass moved the ball half the distance to the goal, and another incomplete pass resulted during the final four seconds.

Cobre was intercepted and punted in the first quarter after gaining five yards; fumbled, turned it over on downs, and was intercepted in the second quarter after totaling 86 yards; and was sacked on fourth down and punted before scoring on a 3-play, 2-yard drive in the third quarter. Junior Ezequiel Dominguez ran it in on 3rd-and-goal from the one. The conversion pass fell incomplete as the Indians trailed 26-6 with 2:08 remaining.

Morenci totaled six touchdowns plus two conversion scores. Senior Isaac Pacheco crossed the goal line thrice in three different quarters, from a yard out with 7:46 left in the first quarter (6-0) during the Wildcats’ initial possession, from 70 yards with 2:05 left in the second quarter (20-0) during the fourth possession, and from 76 yards with 8:1- left in the third quarter (26-0) during the seventh possession; senior Tanner Hudman from five yards with 6:32 left in the second quarter (12-0) during the third possession; junior Carlos Bray from two yards out (32-6) with 7:18 left in the fourth quarter during the 10th possession; and on a Brandon Blair to Ruben Casillas 10-yard pass (39-6) with 1:58 left during the final possession.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Senior Tanner Hudman stops a Cobre sophomore Enrique Quinteros from advancing with the ball.

Senior Mark Roybal connected with Bray for a conversion pass and senior Christopher Roybal added a conversion kick to account for Morenci’s scoring.

Morenci punted after gaining 42 yards on six plays during its second possession, took a knee on first down during its fifth possession to end the first half, was intercepted on 3rd down during its sixth possession, lost yardage on a bad 4th down snap during its eighth possession, and punted on4th down during its ninth possession.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Saul siblings and Morenci High alums, Jose (Class of 2017) and Esperanza (2015) take to dueling on the drums during a break in the homecoming game’s action. No word on who the winner was, but Jose wore a bigger smile than his older sister. The sister more than likely saw a different outcome.

Unofficially, the Wildcats outgained the Indians by 205 yards (360-155) and took four fewer snaps (52-56).

Defensively, Hudman and Mark Roybal each had an interception, Pacheco had two quarterback sacks totaling 14 yards, Matthew Garcia and Christopher Roybal combined for an 8-yard sack, and Omar Ortega recovered a fumble.