State top two ranked 2A teams meet in Morenci on Friday

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Patrick Chavez burst through an opening made by teammates for a long gain. The Morenci senior fullback averaged 6.4 (10-64) yards per carry in Gilbert. Morenci will battle Pima for the 2A Salt Region Championship on Friday. The Pima Booster Club will be live streaming the game here.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

MORENCI – They met thrice before in Graham County. It was during off-season 7-on-7 passing sessions and Big Man Challenges, preparation for the 2022 campaign. The venues were Thatcher’s John Mickelson Field on June 7, Safford’s Herman BB Andrews Track and Field on June 14, and Pima’s Edd Hubbard Field on June 28. The Pima Booster Club will be live streaming the game here.

Four months later, the pairing is for the regular season finale, the Salt Region title, and a contest involving the top two ranked 2A teams of 46. The Greenlee County contest will be held in Morenci’s Lawson Stadium. Kickoff is 7 p.m.

The teams have both dominated four other region members, with an average score of 60-5 (239-19) per region game or a 55-point margin by the No. 1 Morenci Wildcats (9-0 overall, 17.3794 rating, 4-0 region) and 57-8 (229-33) or 49-point margin by the No. 2 Pima Roughriders (8-1, 16.9117, 4-0).

Morenci is 18-6 versus Pima during the past 40 seasons (1982-2021), averaging a 26-12 (622-299) score per game or a 14-point margin, and has won the previous five. During the same span, the Wildcats are 12-2 versus the Roughriders in Lawson Stadium with a 32-13 (448-180) average score per game or 19-point margin.

A previous meeting in Morenci favored the Wildcats 21-15 (2020). Morenci’s other home wins over Pima have been 44-16 (2019), 14-0 (2017), 54-15 (2010), 28-24 (1998), 33-6 (1997), 34-7 (1994), 43-0 (1992), 26-8 (1989), 27-12 (1987), 40-28 (1986), and 41-0 (1985). Pima’s two wins in Morenci were 40-36 (2010) and 9-7 (1996).

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Michael Casillas (7) takes the handoff from Daylen Johnson and follows his blockers. The Morenci offense has averaged 9.7 yards per carry and 18.5 per catch through nine games.

Other Friday games for Morenci’s 2022 opponents are Scottsdale Christian (7-2) visits Scottsdale Prep (8-1) with both being 4-0 in the Verde Region, Tanque Verde (5-4) hosts Willcox (7-2) with both being 4-0 in the San Pedro Region, Safford (4-5) visits Tucson Pusch Ridge Christian (8-1), Tombstone (3-6) hosts Chandler Prep (5-4), Globe (3-6) hosts Miami (5-4) with both being 1-3 in the Salt Region, and San Tan Charter (6-3) hosts San Carlos (1-7).

Pima Roughriders

Last season, the Roughriders finished 7-4 overall, 3rd (3-1) in the region, averaging a 34-14 (371-151) score per game or a 20-point margin. Arizona Lutheran ended the No. 7 Roughriders’ season with a 27-33 state meet quarterfinal loss.

In the previous 10 seasons, the team played five in the 8-man format (2011-15) and five (2016-20) in its present format. The Roughriders went 22-25 (.125) overall, averaging a 25-23 (1,220-1,076) score per game or a 2-point margin in the current format. Pima was 10-13 (.435) at home and 12-12 (.500) on the road. There were six post-season games, two in the quarterfinals, with the most recent during the 2021 season.

Pima went 9-8 (.529) during two seasons (2020-21) under Jim Hughes, 6-13 (.316) during two seasons (2018-19) under John Bryant, and 14-8 (.636) during two seasons (2016-17) under Jace Hancock.

This season, Pima (8-1, 4-0) has wins of 41-3 over Safford (Aug. 26), 43-0 over Tanque Verde (Sept. 9), 42-7 over Scottsdale Christian (Sept. 16), 27-14 over Willcox (Sept. 23), 54-0 over San Carlos (Sept. 30), 49-0 over Globe (Oct. 7), 67-27 over San Tan Charter (Oct. 14), and 64-6 over Miami (Oct. 21). The loss was 0-19 to Thatcher (Sept. 2). The Roughriders are 5-0 (1.000) at home, 3-1 on the road, and have averaged a 57-8 (229-33) score per game or 49-point margin. The opponents’ combined records are 47-33 (.588).

Morenci Wildcats

Last season, Morenci finished 11-3 (.786) overall and 4-1 (.800) for 2nd in the region, averaging a 33-15 (462-214) score per game or an 18-point margin. The No. 4 Wildcats ended as state runners-up to the No. 2 Phoenix Arizona Lutheran Coyotes with a 14-28 loss. Morenci reached the final with a first-round forfeit by No. 13 Whiteriver Alchesay, a 35-23 quarterfinal win over No. 5 Gilbert Christian, and a 39-14 semifinal win over No. 1 Parker.

During the previous 10 seasons (2011-20), the Wildcats went 71-40 (.640) overall, averaging a 29-19 (3,202-2,163) score per game or a 10-point margin. Morenci was 34-15 (.694) at home and 37-25 (.597) on the road. The post-season games numbered 16, qualifying during 9-10 seasons, and capped by a runner-up finish in 2012.

Morenci went 37-18 (.673) during five seasons (2009-13) under Frank Ogas Sr., 16-15 (.516) during three seasons (2014-16) under Gary Sandoval, and 17-7 (.708) during two seasons (2017-18) under David Gallegos.

The Wildcats are 22-12 (.647) overall, 9-5 (.643) region, and 4-3 (.571) in the post-season during three seasons (2019-21) under Joseph Garcia. Morenci has averaged a 27-15 (930-499) score per game or an 8-point margin during his tenure.

Morenci (9-0) has wins of 30-6 over 6-2 Scottsdale Christian (Aug. 19), 44-0 over 4-4 Tanque Verde (Aug. 26), 44-0 over 3-5 Safford (Sept. 2), 21-14 over 6-2 Willcox (Sept. 16), 56-0 over 3-5 Tombstone (Sept. 23), 56-0 over 3-5 Globe (Sept. 30), 64-13 over 5-3 San Tan Charter (Oct. 7), 49-6 over 5-3 Miami (Oct. 14), and 70-0 over San Carlos (Oct. 21), averaging a 48-4 (434-38) score per game or a 44-point margin. The opponents’ combined records are 41-39 (.513).

A total of 3,405 offensive yards, with an average of 9.6 (290-2,795) rushing and 18.5 (33-610) passing, have been amassed by the Wildcats during nine games. Return yards are 525.

Defensively, 53 quarterback sacks, 16 fumble recoveries, 12 caused fumbles, 11 interceptions, and 30 pass deflections have been notched.

The Wildcats’ regular season home finale is a rendezvous with No. 2 Pima (Oct. 28) in region play.

Last Week:

Last week for Morenci’s 2022 opponents, Scottsdale Christian (6-2) defeated Phoenix Valley Lutheran (3-4) 49-8, Tanque Verde (4-4) shutout Bisbee (3-5) 57-0, Safford (3-5) downed Payson (5-3) 26-21, Willcox (6-2) defeated Tombstone (3-5) 49-8, Globe (3-5) blanked San Carlos (1-6) 44-0, and San Tan Charter (5-3) fell 27-67 to Pima (7-1).

2A Salt Region

The Morenci Wildcats are 9-0 overall and 4-0 in the region, the Pima Roughriders (8-1, 4-0), the San Tan Charter Roadrunners (6-3, 2-2), the Miami Vandals (5-4, 1-3), the Globe Tigers (3-6, 1-3), and the San Carlos Braves (1-7, 0-4).

Region games this week include Miami at Globe, Pima at Morenci, and San Carlos at San Tan Charter on Oct. 28.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Donovan Vozza (9) and Tristen Sanchez (82) sack Zayden Neill (12). The San Tan Charter quarterback was sacked nine times by the Wildcats. Morenci has posted 53 sacks on the season.

Thus far in region play, San Tan Charter defeated Miami 46-21 on Aug. 19; Morenci blanked Globe 56-0, and Pima shutout San Carlos 54-0 on Sept. 30; and Morenci defeated San Tan Charter 64-13, Miami shutout San Carlos 62-0, and Pima blanked Globe 49-0 on Oct. 7; Globe blanked San Carlos 44-0, Morenci downed Miami 49-6, and Pima defeated San Tan Charter 57-27 on Oct. 14; and Morenci shutout San Carlos 70-0, Pima defeated Miami 64-6, and San Tan Charter blanked Globe 63-0 on Oct. 21.

This week’s 2A statewide rankings have Morenci No. 1 (17.3794) of 46 teams, Pima No. 2 (16.9117), San Tan Charter No. 9 (5.0761), Miami No. 13 (1.8445), Globe No. 30 (minus 9.5115), and San Carlos No. 39 (minus 15.5268).

The initial rankings released on Sept. 27 listed Morenci as No. 1 (17.8142 rating) of 47 teams, Pima as No. 2 (15.7033), San Tan Charter as No. 8 (7.4435), Miami as No. 14 (2.6749), Globe No. 33 (minus 11.2189), and San Carlos No. 38 (minus 13.9924).

2A San Pedro Region

The Willcox Cowboys are 7-2 overall and 4-0 in the region, the Tucson Tanque Verde Hawks (5-4, 4-0), the Bisbee Pumas (3-6, 2-2), the Tombstone Yellow Jackets (3-6, 1-3), the Tucson Catalina Trojans (1-8, 1-3), and the Tucson Santa Rita Eagles (0-9, 0-4).

Region games this week (Oct. 28) are Bisbee at Catalina, Willcox at Tanque Verde, and Santa Rita forfeited to Tombstone.

In region play to date, it was Willcox 35-22 over defeated Bisbee, Tombstone 48-0 over Catalina, and Santa Rita forfeited to Tanque Verde on Sept. 30; Bisbee 30-16 over Tombstone, Tanque Verde 54-0 over Catalina, and Santa Rita forfeited to Willcox on Oct. 7; Santa Rita forfeited to Catalina, Tanque Verde 57-0 over Bisbee, and Willcox 49-8 over Tombstone on Oct. 14; Willcox 52-6 over Catalina, Tanque Verde 68-0 over Tombstone, and Santa Rita forfeited to Bisbee on Oct. 21.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci Pride Band Color Guard received an award for Outstanding Auxiliary following the 56th Eastern Arizona College Band Day on Oct. 22. Pictured are, from left, assistant coach Andrea Wilson, Eleasah Spean-Austin, October Hernandez, Gracie Murillo, Alex Ayers, Victoria Hernandez, JaimeeLee Freisbey, and head coach Juanita Verlander.

This week’s rankings have Willcox No. 7 (9.2204), Tanque Verde No. 15 (0.0748), Bisbee No. 25 (minus 6.3824), Tombstone No. 27 (minus 7.9020), Catalina No. 43 (minus 22.2812), and Santa Rita no longer on the list.

The initial rankings listed Willcox No. 6 (11.6858 rating), Tombstone No. 19 (minus 1.4195), Bisbee No. 20 (minus 2.2248), Tanque Verde No. 23 (minus 3.7219), Santa Rita No. 43 (minus 16.6345), and Catalina No. 45 (minus 21.1286).

3A South Region

The Thatcher Eagles are 9-0 overall and 4-0 in the region, the Tucson Pusch Ridge Christian Lions (8-1, 3-1), the Tucson Sabino Sabercats (6-3, 2-2), the Benson Bobcats (5-4, 1-3), the Safford Bulldogs (4-5, 2-2), and the Tucson Palo Verde Magnet Titans (2-7, 0-4).

Region pairings this week (Oct. 28) are Thatcher at Palo Verde Magnet, Safford at Pusch Ridge, and Benson at Sabino.

Last week, Thatcher defeated Coolidge 56-20, Pusch Ridge defeated Chandler Valley Christian 52-20, Mesa Eastmark defeated Sabino 56-19, Benson defeated Phoenix Christian 42-28, Safford defeated Payson 26-21, and Palo Verde Magnet was shutout 0-49 by Tempe.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Thatcher senior Blake Watson (81) was honored to carry the banner for the Eagles onto their final regular season home game against Sabino. Sophomore Wyatt Nicholas (27) earned the privilege of bringing in the hammer for the defense.

In region games already played, Pusch Ridge blanked Benson 59-0, Sabino downed Palo Verde Magnet 55-6, and Thatcher defeated Safford 40-2 on Sept. 16; Sabino 68-14 over Safford, Thatcher 28-15 over Pusch Ridge, and Benson 62-20 over Palo Verde Magnet on Sept. 23; Pusch Ridge 41-20 over Sabino on Sept. 30; and shutouts were posted by Thatcher 51-0 over Benson and Safford 59-0 over Palo Verde Magnet on Oct. 7; Thatcher 35-7 over Sabino, Pusch Ridge 69-0 over Palo Verde Magnet, and Safford 42-14 over Benson on Oct. 21.

This week’s 3A rankings have Thatcher No. 1 (25.8802), Pusch Ridge No. 3 (20.0844), Sabino No. 8 (11.4004), Benson No. 14 (3.7074), Safford No. 15 (3.2837), and Palo Verde Magnet No. 36 (minus 11.1947).

The initial rankings listed Thatcher as No. 1 (23.9705 rating) of 38 teams, Pusch Ridge as No. 3 (16.9552), Sabino as No. 5 (14.8415), Benson as No. 10 (7.7707), Safford No. 30 (minus 2.8231), and Palo Verde Magnet No. 34 (minus 6.8683).

Morenci – 70, San Carlos – 0

The Wildcats led 48-0 at halftime and 63-0 heading into the fourth quarter. A running clock was in effect with 2:41 left before the halftime break.

San Carlos received the opening kick and punted during three of its seven first-half possessions, twice going 3-and-out. A fumble on second down, a turnover on downs, an interception, and running out of time ended the other possessions. The Braves punted on 4th-and-12 after losing two yards, failed to cover an onside kick, fumbled on 2nd-and-9 after gaining a yard, punted on 4th-and-6 after gaining 15 yards in four plays, turn the ball over on downs after gaining five yards, punted on 4th-and-8 after gaining two yards, were intercepted on 3rd-and-10 after gaining 15 yards, and ran out of time after three plays losing 10 yards. The total yardage gained in 20 plays was 36.

Morenci had seven first-half possessions, scoring on all seven by covering 30 yards in one play, 40 yards in five plays, 28 yards in one play, 45 yards in two plays, 65 yards in four plays, 40 yards in three plays, and 40 yards in one play. The total yardage gained in 12 plays was 288.

Senior Derek Saenz ran 30 yards to pay dirt on the first offensive play and junior Tristen Sanchez added the conversion run (8-0), junior Michael Casillas ran 14 yards on 1st-and-10 (14-0), senior Daylen Johnson connected with junior Joseph Seballos for a 28-yard touchdown (20-0) on 1st-and-10, Jonson ran 45 yards on 2nd-and-10 and junior Austyn Nelson added a conversion kick (27-0), senior Patrick Chavez ran three yards on 1st-and-goal and Nelson added a conversion kick (34-0), Johnson connected with senior Gavin Baca for a 5-yard TD on 1st-and-goal and Nelson added a conversion kick (41-0), and Johnson connected with Saenz for a 40-yard TD on 1st-and-10 and Nelson added a conversion kick (48-0).

The Wildcats scored during three of four second-half possessions, covering 50 yards in four plays, returning a punt 43 yards, and 25 yards in one play after recovering a fumbled exchange; and were intercepted on 3rd-and-3 on the third possession.

Johnson connected with Baca for an 8-yard TD on 1st-and-goal and Sanchez connected with Johnson for a conversion pass (54-0), Saenz returned a punt and Nelson added the conversion kick (63-0), and freshman Derrick Lytle recovered a fumbled exchange to run 25 yards and Nelson added the conversion kick (70-0).

San Carlos punted, was intercepted, punted, and ran out of time on its second-half possessions.

Morenci totaled 450 offensive yards, 190 on 12 carries, and 173 on eight pass receptions compared to 84 yards, 69 on 29 carries, and 15 on one reception by San Carlos.