Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Carmelo Robertson (15) attempts to break out around the right side. The Baboquivari Warriors came into Fort Thomas and dominated in a 44-0 win.
By Jon Johnson
FORT THOMAS – A thunderstorm delayed the start of football in the Gila Valley by about 30 minutes, and when the game began the wet conditions made for a slippery and sloppy opener for Fort Thomas as they fell to the visiting Baboquivari Warriors 0-44.
Fort Thomas looked inexperienced and not quite ready for action (only three seniors on the squad) and dug themselves into a hole they couldn’t recover from. The Apaches fought hard the entire game, however, and while they didn’t cross the end zone, they had small victories throughout in which to build for next week.
The field conditions didn’t seem to bother the Warriors, who broke the ice on the second play from scrimmage when Babo quarterback Xavier Mease went the distance from 35 yards. Mease finished the possession by reaching across the pylon for the 2-point conversion and Babo was up early 8-0.
Babo’s defense then came into play on The Fort’s second play from scrimmage when big Jesse Buendia stepped in front of an Allen Gilbert offering for the INT. Buendia was headed for glory but Gilbert saved the pick-six with a nice open-field tackle.
It only delayed the inevitable, however, and three plays later Nathaniel Garcia crossed untouched on a 1-yard TD counter rush and Babo was up 14-0 before most people got their Frye bread.
The missteps continued for Fort Thomas as a snap on fourth down sailed overhead through the end zone for a safety and then the ensuing punt/kickoff went out of bounds giving the Warriors the ball at the Apaches’ 36-yard line.
After a long TD run was called back for a penalty, Mease repeated himself and ran 62 yards for the score. The Warriors then shared the wealth as running back Eli Pablo scored on their next possession on a 20-yard jaunt down the right side to give Babo a daunting 36-0 lead at the half.
Fort Thomas showed signs of life in the second half and moved the ball a bit on the ground and a couple of times in the air. Their initial drive ultimately ended in a turnover by downs.
Mease finished the scoring for Babo with another big run (60 yards) for the touchdown to put Baboquivari up 44-0 with a running clock in the third quarter.
The Apaches fought the entire game and had a shot late to avoid being shut out. With the ball at the Warriors’ 20 with 9 seconds to play, the snap went over Gilbert’s head. He backtracked to retrieve it and ran to his right. Gilbert then slung a pass on the money into the end zone and it was caught by Justin Olivar for the score. However, the Fort was called for an illegal block in the back to give Gilbert space to throw and the points were taken off the board.
With one second left in the game, Gilbert connected with Michael Olivar at the 10 but he was double-teamed and couldn’t break free of their grasp, and the game ended without the Apaches getting their score.
Fort Thomas will look to bounce back next week as the Apaches travel to Duncan on Thursday to do battle with the Wildkats, starting at 7 p.m.
In other local prep action:
The Safford Bulldogs led from start to finish on the road at the Payson Longhorns, 35-14. The Bulldogs will next host the Pima Roughriders on Friday, Aug. 25, starting at 7 p.m.
The Thatcher Eagles held their own for a bit against Paradise Honors but fell 14-35 to the Panthers. Thatcher will next host the Crismon Rattlers at EAC on Aug. 25, starting at 7 p.m.
The Morenci Wildcats opened its foray into the 3A Conference with a win on the road against the American Academy Leadership – Ironwood Warriors, 6-0. Morenci will next travel to Eagar to take on the Round Valley Elks on Friday, Aug. 25, starting at 7 p.m.
The Willcox Cowboys fell 21-32 to the Arizona Lutheran Coyotes. Willcox will next travel to Tonopah Valley to play The Phoenix on Aug. 25, starting at 7 p.m.
The Duncan Wildkats fell 36-64 to Lordsburg, New Mexico. Duncan will next host the Fort Thomas Apaches on Thursday, Aug. 24, starting at 7 p.m.