San Pedro Region entrants remain in state title contention

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Senior running back Brendon Enriquez burst through a teaching aid in preparation for the upcoming quarterfinal game. The No. 4 Wildcats host No. 5 Gilbert Christian Friday, Nov. 12. Morenci advanced via a forfeit from No. 13 Whiteriver Alchesay and Gilbert Christian ousted No. 12 Scottsdale Christian 42-27 on Nov. 5.

Morenci hosts Gilbert Christian, Pima travels to Arizona Lutheran

By Raymundo Frasquillo

MORENCI – The Joseph Garcia-coached No. 4 Morenci Wildcats will be hosting the No. 5 Gilbert Christian Knights for the quarterfinal round Friday, Nov. 12. It is the initial meeting of the 9-2 teams on the gridiron.

The visitors advanced by ousting No. 12 Scottsdale Christian 42-27 while the hosts received a forfeit from No. 13 Whiteriver Alchesay during the first round of the 2A playoffs on Nov. 5.

Gilbert Christian had a 40-19 (395-187) score per game or 21-point margin through the 10-game regular season, gaining 3,173 offensive yards during the regular season, 1,915 on 232 carries and 1,258 on 69-104 pass completions. The Average carry was for 8.3 yards by 11 different backs and the average reception for 18.2 yards by eight different receivers.

The Knights netted 490 offensive yards during their round one pairing, 414 on 31 carries and 76 on 8-9 passes. The averages were 13.4 yards per carry with five rushers and 9.5 yards per catch with three receivers.

Morenci had a 38-15 (377-149) average score per game or a 23-point margin through  10 games, totaling 3,604 offensive yards, 2,805 on 290 carries, and 799 on 38-79 passes. The average carry was for 9.7 yards by 10 different backs and the average reception for 21.0 yards by six different receivers. The total yardage was attained behind the blocking of seven different linemen rotated into the five interior positions.

Gilbert Christian also has wins of 27-14 over Antelope (Sept. 3), 58-0 over Kingman Academy (Sept. 17), 34-7 over Chandler Prep (Sept. 24), 58-6 over Globe (Oct. 1), 41-36 over Miami (Oct. 8), 42-31 over San Tan Charter (Oct. 15), 54-0 over Gilbert Arete Prep (Oct. 22), and 56-0 over San Carlos (Oct. 29). The losses were 44-17 to Parker (Aug. 27) and 49-8 to Chandler Valley Christian (Sept. 10).

Morenci also has wins of 45-12 over Maricopa Sequoia Pathway (Aug. 27), 55-0 over Globe (Sept. 10), 72-0 over Phoenix Madison Highland (Sept. 17), 27-7 over Saint Johns (Sept. 24), 46-7 over Bisbee (Oct. 1), 58-6 over Tombstone (Oct. 8), 27-10 over Willcox (Oct. 22), and 33-19 over Pima (Oct. 29). The losses were 46-7 to Eagar Round Valley (Sept. 3) and 42-7 to Benson (Oct. 15).

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci senior captains, from left Brendon Enriquez, Shawn Hudman, Tony Roybal, and Jericho Sanchez await the word to head for the mid-field coin-toss meeting. Enriquez and Roybal were captains for each of the 10 regular-season games, Hudman in nine, Sanchez in two, Two others, junior Gavin Baca and sophomore Austyn Nelson were captains in eight and in one game, respectively, this season.

The Wildcats have yet to suit up or set foot on the field during three consecutive post-season games, because of the ongoing global health crisis. Morenci also received a forfeit in the 2020 first round from No. 12 Sequoia Pathway and yielded a forfeit to No. 1 Benson after having to quarantine for the quarterfinals the next week.

“We should be well-rested and weren’t banged up from Friday night,” the third-year Morenci head coach said. “We’re trying to control what we can; our health, attitude, conditioning, and preparation.”

The Wildcats were 18-24 in the 2A state playoffs, 11-11 in the first round, 4-9 in the quarterfinals, 3-1 in the semifinals, and 0-3 in the championship since switching to the class in 1982 or during 39 previous seasons, finishing 22 times over .500, four at .500, and 13 times below .500.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Opponent game films or videos were viewed as part of the weeks’ preparation.

Morenci also entered the post-season with an 8-2 regular-season mark, in 2018 under David Gallegos (17-7, 2017-18) and in 2002 under David Brockmeier (23-18, 2002-05). Three teams went 8-1, in 1994 and 1992 under Reynaldo Peru (51-26, 1991-97), and in 1983 under Jack Edens (22-10, 1983-85). The Wildcats went 7-2 in 1984, 1993, and 1998; and 7-3 in 2011 and 2017. A 10-0 mark has been posted twice, in 2012 under Frank Ogas (37-18, 2011-15) and in 2001 under Kelly Moore (28-12, 1998-2001).

The Wildcats have entered the post-season ranked No. 8 or higher four prior times, No. 2 in 2012, No. 4 in 2018, and No. 8 in 2017 and 2020. Morenci advanced to the next round in each season, falling 21-7 to No. 1 Northwest Christian in the 2012 title game, 27-14 to No. 5 Phoenix Christian in the 2018 quarterfinals, 45-7 to No. 9 Eagar Round Valley in 2017, and by forfeit to No. 1 Benson in 2020.

State Quarterfinalists

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Opponent plays were executed by the scout team to prepare the Wildcats’ defense for the formations that will be used against them.

Eight teams were eliminated in the first round and as many advanced to the quarterfinals. The remaining teams include the four San Pedro Region entrants, No. 3 Benson (12.0195 rating, 8-3 overall) and 4-1 champion, No. 4 and 4-1 runner-up Morenci (10.0956, 9-2), No. 7 and 3-1 third place Pima (6.3762, 7-3), and No. 8 and 2-2 fourth place Willcox (5.2893, 7-3); No. 1 and Agua Fria Region 4-0 champion Parker (14.5514, 10-0), No. 2 and Gila Region 4-0 champion Arizona Lutheran (13.0598, 10-1), No. 3 and Salt Region 5-0 champion Gilbert Christian (7.4572, 9-2), and No. 11 and Little Colorado Region 2-1 third-place Saint Johns (3.4268, 7-4).

The other quarterfinal pairings are Willcox at Parker, Saint Johns at Benson, and Pima at Arizona Lutheran. The opponent ratings were 1.8530 for Benson, minus 0.5556 for Morenci, minus 0.6421 for Saint Johns, minus 0.7216 for Pima, minus 0.9161 for Arizona Lutheran, minus 2.7638 for Parker, minus 2.9947 for Gilbert Christian, and minus 5.0989 for Willcox.

State Round One

The 16-team state meet field had four from the San Pedro Region, three from the Little Colorado Region, two from both the Agua Fria and Verde Regions, and one from the Gila, Hassayampa, Salt, San Juan, and Rillito Regions.

Raymundo Frasquillo File Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci fell to No. 5 Phoenix Christian as No. 4 during the 2018 quarterfinals. The Cougars fell to Thatcher in the semifinals the next week; blanked Thatcher in the 2019 semifinals and fell to Round Valley for the title; moved up to the 3A Class in 2020 and have since been eliminated in the first round twice. Phoenix Christian senior Joey Richenberger (21) was penalized for grabbing the face mask of Ruben Casillas, right, during the 2018 pairing. Morenci senior Mark Roybal, left, moved in to block out Phoenix Christian junior Man-Man Freeman (24).

Eliminated in the first round were No. 16 Teec Nos Pos Red Mesa (minus 4.5646, 4-3, 2-0 San Juan Region for first) 69-14 by Parker, No. 15 Trivium Prep (minus 3.3679, 5-5, 3-0 Hassaympa Region for first) 61-20 by Arizona Lutheran, No. 14 Maricopa Sequoia Pathway (1.4982, 7-4, 3-1 Rillito Region for first) 49-7 by Benson, No. 13 Whiteriver Alchesay (2.2493, 5-3, 2-1 Little Colorado Region for second) by forfeit to Morenci, No. 12 Scottsdale Christian (2.5995, 5-4, 2-0 Verde Region for first) 42-27 by Gilbert Christian, No. 6 Camp Verde (6.4272, 8-3, 3-1 Agua Fria Region for second) by Saint Johns, No. 10 Scottsdale Prep (5.2541, 8-2, 4-1 Verde Region for second) 57-14 by Pima, and No. 9 Holbrook (5.2760, 7-3, 2-1 Little Colorado Region for first) 42-32 by Willcox.

During the regular season, the six San Pedro Region members were a combined 34-22 (.607) overall, the four in the Little Colorado Region 19-14 (.613), the five in the Gila Region 27-23 (.540), the five in the Agua Fria Region 23-25 (.479), the five in the Verde Region 20-24 (.417), the five in the Hassayampa Region 17-24 (.415), the six in the Salt Region 24-32 (.429), the five in the Rillito Region 21-28 (.429), and the 3-team San Juan Region 6-12 (.333).