Top four ranked 2A teams meet for semifinals at Desert Vista

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci assistant coach Esai Vanegas (LEFT) holds a blocking dummy as linemen react to the snapped ball earlier in the week. Junior quarterback Daylen Johnson stepped to hand off the ball to classmate Derek Saenz during offensive play reviews. The 10-2 No. 4 Wildcats are paired with 11-0 top-ranked Parker in a semifinal game at Phoenix Desert Vista Saturday, Nov. 20.

Fourth-ranked Wildcats take on No. 1 Broncs, No. 3 Bobcats face No. 2 Coyotes

By Raymundo Frasquillo

PHOENIX – The 2A state football semifinals pair No. 3 Benson with No. 2 Arizona Lutheran at 2 p.m. and No. 4 Morenci with No. 1 Parker at 6 p.m. on the Phoenix Desert Vista campus, 16440 S. 32nd St. on Saturday, Nov. 20.

The regular season opponent ratings were 1.8530 for Benson (10-2 overall, 7-2 seeding, 12.0195 rating), minus 0.5556 for Morenci (10-2, 8-2, 10.0956), minus 0.9161 for Arizona Lutheran (11-1, 9-1, 13.0598), and minus 2.7638 for Parker (11-0, 9-0, 14.5514). Morenci had six of its regular-season opponents qualify for the postseason, Benson and Arizona Lutheran both had five, and Parker had three.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci senior defender Brendon Enriquez successfully blocked a first-quarter Gilbert Christian field goal attempt.

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.

Morenci stands 20-24 (.417) in the 2A state playoffs, 12-11 (.522) in the first round, 5-9 (.357) in the quarterfinals, 3-1 (.750) in the semifinals, and 0-3 in the championship since switching to the class in 1982 or during 40 seasons. The Red and Black finished 22 times over .500, four at .500, and 13 times below .500 in the previous 39 seasons.

The semifinal wins were15-12 over Winkelman Hayden (1984), 14-7 over Wickenburg (1992), and 10-7 over Tempe Prep (2012). The loss was 22-0 to Lakeside Blue Ridge (1983). The title game losses were 25-7 to Phoenix Christian (1984), 20-8 to Saint Johns (1992), and 21-7 to Phoenix Northwest Christian (2012). The Wildcats finished with overall records of 9-2 (1983), 9-3 (1984), 8-3 (1992), and 13-1 (2012).

The Wildcats were the 3A (Class A) state champion during the nation’s Bicentennial year, going 11-1 under three-year (1974-76) head coach Clifford Martin III (29-5 overall, 13-1 region, 2-1 state playoffs). The playoff field solely included the four region champions. Morenci’s post-season included a 21-18 semifinal win over Ajo and a 39-7 championship game win over Page.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: The flag line performs. Pictured are, from left. From left Victoria Hernandez, Alexzandria Ayers, Gracie Murillo, and Skylar Kartchner.

Morenci versus Parker

Parker ousted No. 8 Willcox (7-4, 7-2, 5.2893) 36-22 during the quarterfinals Nov. 12 and No. 16 Teec Nos Pos Red Mesa (4-3, 4-2, minus 4.5646) 69-14 during the first round Nov. 5.

The Broncs averaged a 34-15 (307-139) score per game or a 19-point margin during a 9-game regular season. The wins were 44-17 over Gilbert Christian (Aug. 27), 60-24 over Tonopah Valley (Sept. 3), 34-28 over Wickenburg (Sept. 10), 40-0 over Wellton Antelope (Sept. 24), 40-18 over Arizona Lutheran (Oct. 1), 36-16 over Camp Verde (Oct. 8), 48-0 over Kingman Academy (Oct. 15), 50-20 over Glendale Prep (Oct. 22), and 67-16 over Surprise Highland Prep (Oct. 29).

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Michael Casillas eludes a would-be tackler en route to posting another 200-plus yards outing. The Morenci sophomore running back scored three touchdowns on the night.

Morenci eliminated No. 5 Gilbert Christian (9-3, 8-2, 7.4572) 35-23 in the quarterfinals and received a forfeit from No. 13 Whiteriver Alchesay (5-3, 5-2, 2.2493) in the first round.

The Wildcats averaged a 38-15 (377-149) score per game or a 23-point margin through 10 regular-season games. The wins were 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).

Regular season opponent ratings were minus 2.9947 for Gilbert Christian, minus 5.0989 for Willcox, minus 6.0649 for Alchesay, and minus 11.2917 for Red Mesa.

Arizona Lutheran vs. Benson

Arizona Lutheran defeated No. 7 Pima (7-4, 6-3, 6.3762) 33-27 in the quarterfinals and No. 15 Trivium Prep (5-5, 5-4, minus 3.3679) 61-20 in the first round. The Coyotes averaged a 43-11 (432-108) score per game or a 32-point margin during a 10-game regular season.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: The thrill of victory was displayed by Morenci seniors Brendon Enriquez, left, and Shawn Hudman following the 34-23 quarterfinal win over Gilbert Christian Nov. 12.

Benson downed No. 11 Saint Johns (7-5, 6-4, 3.4268) 48-6 and No. 14 Maricopa Sequoia Pathway (7-4, 7-3, 1.4982) 49-7 in the first round. The Bobcats averaged a 39-9 (350-82) score per game or a 30-point margin during a 9-game regular season.

The opponent ratings were minus 0.6421 for Saint Johns, minus 0.7216 for Pima, minus 5.7493 for Sequoia Pathway, and minus 6.1151 for Trivium Prep.

Arizona Lutheran had regular-season wins of 33-18 over Scottsdale Christian (Aug. 26), 56-0 over Kingman Academy (Sept. 3), 52-0 over Phoenix Christian (Sept. 10), 15-14 over Eloy Santa Cruz (Sept. 17), 35-6 over Maricopa Sequoia Pathway (Sept. 24), 38-14 over Phoenix Veritas Prep (Oct. 8), 59-16 over Phoenix NFL Yet (Oct. 15), 55-0 over Chandler Prep (Oct. 22), and 71-0 over Laveen Heritage Prep (Oct. 29). The loss was 40-18 to Parker (Oct. 1).

Benson had regular-season wins of 41-0 over Tucson Tanque Verde (Sept. 10), 57-0 over Phoenix NFL Yet (Sept. 17), 42-7 over Phoenix Veritas Prep (Sept. 24), 56-14 over Bisbee (Oct. 8), 42-7 over Morenci (Oct. 15), 49-6 over Tombstone (Oct. 22), and 35-0 over Willcox (Oct. 29). The losses were 34-21 to Tucson Pusch Ridge Christian (Aug. 27) and 14-7 to Pima (Oct. 1).

State Quarterfinalists

Eight teams were eliminated in the first round and eight advanced to the quarterfinals.

The advancing teams included the four San Pedro Region entrants, No. 3 and 4-1 champion Benson, No. 4 and 4-1 runner-up Morenci, No. 7 and 3-1 third place Pima, and No. 8 and 2-2 fourth place Willcox; No. 1 and Agua Fria Region 4-0 champion Parker, No. 2 and Gila Region 4-0 champion Arizona Lutheran, No. 3 and Salt Region 5-0 champion Gilbert Christian, and No. 11 and Little Colorado Region 2-1 third-place Saint Johns.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Gilbert Christian outscored Morenci 23-21 in the second half, but trailed throughout the game and could not completely erase the 14-0 first-half deficit. A pair of Knights console one another as the agony of defeat sets in following the 35-23 loss to Morenci.

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, Hassaympa, Salt, San Juan, and Rillito Regions.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Gilbert Christian running back Elijio Ledesma opens his arms for a hand-off from quarterback Matthew Hershey. The senior Knights played their final game of the 2021 season in Lawson Stadium on Nov. 12.

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

Please follow and like us: