Thatcher remains unbeaten with big victory over Pima

Photo By Stan Bonifacio: Thatcher’s Cole Motes snags a pass to give the Eagles a 1st-and-goal in the second quarter. Thatcher scored eight consecutive touchdowns to beat Pima, 56-12. 

By Jon Johnson

THATCHER – In their most complete offensive game of the season, the Thatcher Eagles (7-0) remained unbeaten by scoring eight straight touchdowns with no turnovers or punts on their way to a 56-12 thrashing over the Pima Roughriders (3-3) on Friday.

“We wanted to come out and play physical football and try to eliminate mistakes,” said Thatcher head coach Ramon Morales. “We knew they had some good athletes and they’ve been winning big (in) the games that we saw. We were just ready. We just told our kids (to) be ready and let’s go out and execute, and I think we did that for the most part.”

Thatcher’s defense held Pima in check for practically the entire game as the Roughriders turned the ball over on an interception by Quinton Turley on their first possession. Pima turned the ball over on downs on its next possession and then punted four straight times.

Conversely, Thatcher had little trouble moving the ball on offense, and on 4th-and-2 from the 13, Riley Morris took the ball down to the 1-foot line. Quinton Turley then scored on the ensuing play to break the ice and put the Eagles up 7-0.

The first quarter would end with that same score, but the Eagles ramped it up in the second quarter and scored four straight touchdowns as they took advantage of the short field gifted to them by their defense.

Photo By Stan Bonifacio: Riley Morris (28) heads toward the end zone.

After Jack Kortsen hit Cole Motes on a slant to put the Eagles 1st-and-goal from the 7, Gavin Bryce backed his way in two plays later from the 2-yard line to give Thatcher a 14-0 lead. Brock Jones then put one in from the 1-yard line, Bretton Dodge kept it rolling with a 2-yard TD plunge, and Riley Morris scored a 2-yard TD and 2-point conversion to put the Eagles up 28-0.

Kortsen then rolled one off for a 38-yard score but the official apparently thought Kortsen had handed the ball off and blew the play dead. The inadvertent whistle negated the touchdown and the Eagles replayed the down with Kortsen handing the ball off this time for just a 1-yard gain. Kortsen then ran the same play and nearly had a 38-yard touchdown but just stepped out of bounds at the 5-yard line. Gavin Bryce then finished the drive with a 5-yard TD and Thatcher went into the locker room up 35-0 at the half.

Photo By Stan Bonifacio: Jake Whitaker prepares to hand the ball to Tyson Hawkins.

The second half had some exciting plays for both sides as Pima made a big play on defense when Brigden Hughes sacked Kortsen for a 16-yard loss.

Facing 4th-and-23, however, Riley Morris crept up and took a direct snap on a fake punt. Morris easily got the first down and then spun out of a tackle attempt by Edward Ibeh-Young and took it to the house to put Thatcher up 42-0 and start the running clock.

The Eagles scored again on a 22-yard run by Kortsen to make it 49-0 before Pima struck back.   

Photo By Stan Bonifacio: Edward Ibeh-Young returns a kickoff.

The Riders finally got on the board in the third quarter when Ibeh-Young returned a kickoff 90 yards for the score. The Pima fans went crazy, setting off poppers and tossing rosin bags into the air, but the Roughriders were still down, 49-6.

Thatcher played their starters the whole game, however, and Kortsen hooked up with Trace Goodman for a 30-yard gain in the fourth quarter. Then he found Motes over the middle and the big man took it 27 yards to pay dirt.

The Roughriders never gave up, however, and Whitaker hit Hayden Ashby with a 25-yard strike with time expired to put the final score in Thatcher’s favor, 56-12.

Photo By Stan Bonifacio: Hayden Ashby catches a touchdown pass on the game’s last play.

The Eagles have a bye week to rest up before heading up north on a two-game road trip the following two weeks.

The Roughriders will head to St. Johns (5-1) on Friday, Oct. 5, starting at 7 p.m., to take on the Redskins, who were just pounded by Round Valley (5-1) 54-7.

Photo By Stan Bonifacio: cole Motes (88) gathers in a pass on his way to the end zone.

Mark your calendars for Oct. 19 as that will likely be the only real challenge to Thatcher’s perfect season when they visit the Elks. Round Valley’s only loss so far this season was 13-18 to Silver City, N.M. on Aug. 24.

In other local prep action:

Safford had a big game from Jerick Arbizo as the Bulldogs (3-3) won their third game in a row by handling the Sahuarita Mustangs (4-2) 33-22. Safford will host the Catalina Trojans (1-5) on Friday, Oct. 5, starting at 7 p.m.

The Morenci Wildcats (6-1) notched their sixth win in a row by handling Cobre, N.M. 39-6. The Wildcats will take a week off before hosting Round Valley on Friday, Oct. 12, starting at 7 p.m.

The Fort Thomas Apaches (6-0) kept their perfect season alive with a 22-6 victory over the Duncan Wildkats (3-3). Fort will next finish up its game against Salome on Wednesday, Oct. 3, at Chandler Prep Academy, starting at 6 p.m., and Duncan will host Valley Union on Friday, Oct. 5, starting at 7 p.m.