Wildcats bound for Saint Johns, vault to No. 13 from No. 18 with Pima win

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci seniors Angel Arrellin, Isaiah Nofchissey, Matthew Harrington, Omar Ortega, Zachary Esparza, Brandon Blair, and Carlos Bray left Lawson Stadium winning their final home game. The Wildcats defeated Pima 44-14 Oct. 25. The class of 2020 members ended 2-3 at home. Since the facility opened in 1982, senior football team members have ended 23-15 on their final home game and the Wildcats are 125-72 (.635) during 38 seasons in Lawson Stadium.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

SAINT JOHNS – Morenci heads to Saint Johns for a Black Region contest and the regular-season finale Nov. 1. It is an opportunity to finish the regular season with a .500 record. The Wildcats left Saint Johns with a 47-12 loss (Sept. 22, 2017) in their previous trip there.

The Redskins have a 5-2 advantage since 1992 and are 3-2 in the regular season since 2013 over the Wildcats. Saint Johns has an average score of 23-15 (163-102) per game or an 8-point margin over Morenci, but, left Lawson Stadium with a 29-0 region loss in 2018.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Senior spirit line flier Danielle Figueroa readies to be lifted by teammates during a routine. The spirit line will be competing in the state meet Saturday, Nov. 2.

This season, No. 8 Saint Johns (7-2, 9.2160, 2-1 region for 2nd) has an average score of 35-9 (313-88) points per game or a 26-point margin. The seven wins are 41-0 over Kingman Academy () (Aug. 23), 56-0 over Rock Point (Aug. 30), 50-0 over Globe (Sept. 13), 74-6 over Pinon (Sept. 20), 28-0 over Pima (Oct. 10), 14-7 over Thatcher (Oct. 18), and 28-25 over Benson (Oct. 18). The two losses are 19-15 to Lakeside Blue Ridge (Sept. 6. 30) and 21-7 to Round Valley (Oct. 4).

Morenci (4-5, 1.6280, 1-2 region for 4th), ranked No. 18, has been outscored by an average of 26-21 (231-186) per game or by a 5-point margin. The four wins are 42-0 over Tucson Santa Rita (Aug. 30) and 14-6 over Willcox (Sept. 12), both on the road plus 32-26 at home over Bisbee (Sept. 27) and 44-16 over Pima (Oct. 25). The five losses are 49-7 to Benson (Sept. 6), 28-7 to Santa Cruz (Sept. 20), 21-20 to New Mexico Bayard Cobre (Oct. 5), 42-8 to Thatcher (Oct. 11), and 47-12 to Round Valley (Oct. 18).

The Wildcats have a 4.1200 average opponent rating compared to minus 0.5261 for the Redskins.

Morenci’s prior nine opponents have been No. 1 Round Valley (6-2 overall, 15.4324 rating, 3-0 East Region for 1st of five), No. 3 Eloy Santa Cruz (7-2, 12.3744, 2-1 Agua Fria Region for 2nd of five), No. 6 Thatcher (5-3, 9.8377, 2-1 East Region for 3rd), No. 9 Benson (6-3, 6.3003, 3-0 San Pedro Region for 1st of five), No. 10 Bisbee (7-2, 5.5064, 2-1 San Pedro Region for 2nd), No. 16 Willcox (5-4, minus 0.0903, 2-1 San Pedro Region for 3rd), No. 20 Pima (3-5 overall, minus 1.9776 rating, 0-3 East Region for 5th of five), No. 29 Tucson Santa Rita (3-5, minus 9.3318, 0-4 San Pedro Region for 5th), and New Mexico Bayard Cobre (4-4, 2-0 3A District 3 for 2nd of four).

The other region pairing this week is No. 20 Pima (3-5, minus 1.9776, 0-3 region for 5th) at No. 1 Round Valley (6-2, 15.4324, 3-0 region for 1st). Sixth-ranked Thatcher (5-3, 11.6847, 2-1 region for 3rd) is at No. 29 Tucson Santa Rita (3-6, minus 9.3318, 0-4 San Pedro Region for 5th of five).

Morenci – 44, Pima – 14

The Wildcats did something they had not done in their previous three games, turn in a complete game. Morenci had balanced scoring in both halves while downing Pima 44-14, Oct. 25.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci sophomore Tony Roybal scored on a second-quarter Brandon Blair pass that went for a 24-yard touchdown. He went from defense to offense after intercepting two second-half Pima passes. He returned the second one a great distance to set up a 15-yard fourth-quarter scoring run on the ensuing first down.

Morenci had four offensive possessions in each half, scoring thrice in the first and twice in the second. A third second-half score was provided by the defensive unit.

After fumbling on their initial possession and trailing by six points, the Wildcats covered 60 yards in three plays, 99 yards in 13 plays, and 57 yards in four plays. Senior Carlos Bray ran in from eight yards out (6-6), senior Brandon Blair connected with freshman Derek Saenz for 15 yards and Bray added a conversion run (14-6), and Blair connected with sophomore Tony Roybal for 24 yards and added a conversion run (22-6).   

In the second half, the Wildcats covered 66 yards in 10 plays, gained 29 yards in seven plays before punting, gained 34 yards in 8 plays before turning the ball over on downs, and rushed for 15 yards on first down. Junior Lance “L.T.” Morey ran in from 17 yards out and a Blair to Maddux Martinez conversion pass made it 30-6, and Blair ran in from 15 yards out. Junior PaulDaniel Moreno returned a recovered fumble for a 45-yard score and Bray added the conversion run. Morenci led 44-14 with 22 seconds left to play.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Senior quarterback Brandon Blair called his number from time to time, picking up yardage and scoring on a second-quarter conversion run and on a fourth-quarter run. He also connected on two aerials for scores.

Pima scored once in each half during eight total possessions. The Roughriders gained seven yards on their initial possession, returned a recovered fumble for a 15-yard score (0-6), gained 24 yards before punts after nine plays, gained 23 yards in 13 plays before fumbling, and gained eight yards before running out of time in the first half.

In the second half, the Roughriders picked up 14 yards before throwing an interception, drove 44 yards in four plays for a second score plus conversion run (30-14), gained 22 yards in seven plays before fumbling, and ran out of time on the fourth play during their final possession.

Morenci’s Class of 2020 members walked off the field as winners for their final home game in Lawson Stadium, finishing 2-3. It is something 12 other senior classes have done in the 20 seasons played during the 21st century at Morenci. The Wildcats are 68-38 at home in the same span.

Since the facility opened in 1982, 23 of 38 senior classes have won their final home game and the Wildcats are 125-72 (.635) overall in Lawson Stadium. Six classes posted unbeaten home results in their final campaigns, 7-0 (2001), 6-0 (1992, 1997, 2002, 2012), and 5-0 (1984). Two classes went in the opposite direction, winless at home. Those two classes were 1991 (0-5 in 1990 season) and 1983 (0-4 in 1982).

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