Wildcats defeat Roughriders 29-12, gain 2-1 advantage on Edd Hubbard Field

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Pima returned at halftime with a 16-point deficit, trailing 22-6 to Morenci. The Roughriders were also outscored in the second half, 7-6, for a 29-12 Black Region home loss Oct. 19.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

PIMA – Fifth-ranked Morenci (7-2 overall 1-2 region) left No. 16 Pima (3-5, 0-3) with a 29-12 Black Region win Oct. 19. The Wildcats are 2-1 on Edd Hubbard Field, posting a 21-8 region win in 2009 and being shutout 30-0 during a 2016 region pairing.

Second-year Morenci head coach David Gallegos cautioned the Wildcats several times last week about the Roughriders. “They have improved and are a quicker team with Whitaker as the quarterback,” he said.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci senior running back Isaac Pacheco walks into the end zone through the hole provided by teammates. The 1-yard score capped a 75-yard drive using 6:17 at the start of the second half. The Wildcats led 29-6, or by four scores, with 17:43 left to play.

The Roughriders surprised the Wildcats with their speed, opening the game by scoring during their first play from scrimmage on a 73-yard Edward Ibeh-Young run. The conversion attempt failed, but Pima led 6-0 with 16 seconds elapsed.

Defensively, the Roughriders stopped the Wildcats on their initial possession using 1:25, forcing a punt after losing two yards on the first three downs.

Morenci regained its focus, stopping the Roughriders on downs after gaining 35 yards on 10 plays using 4:39.

The Wildcats scored on three of its next five first-half possessions, knotting the score on a first-down run. Isaac Pacheco covered 65 yards in 11 seconds and Mark Roybal made the conversion run. The Red and Black led 8-6 with 6:39 elapsed in the game and would not trail thereafter.

Morenci turned the ball over on downs after gaining 30 yards on six plays using 3:34; covered 25 yards in four plays using 1:30, Matthew Harrington ran 5-yards and Christopher Roybal added the first of three conversion kicks (15-6); covered 30 yards in four plays using 1:12, Brandon Blair ran two yards and the conversion kick was good (22-6); and missed a 40-yard field goal attempt after gaining 14 yards on five plays using 1:30.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci senior Matthew Aguinaga, left, slows down Pima senior quarterback Jake Whitaker long enough for junior Zachary Esparza, right, to lend a hand in making the stop.

Meanwhile, Pima’s offense sputtered on its five other first-half possessions. The Roughriders lost a yard and punted after a minute, turned the ball over on downs after gaining 20 yards in seven plays using 2:10, lost 14 yards on three downs and punted after using 2:21, gained a yard and lost a fumble on fourth down after 3:11, and ran out of time after gaining five yards on two plays using seven seconds.

Morenci marched 75 yards in 11 plays using 6:17 after receiving the kick. Pacheco walked into the end zone untouched from a yard out and the conversion kick was good (29-6).

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci senior Ruben Casillas gained 21 yards on a 2nd-and-11 run during the closing moments of the game, escaping Pima senior defender Hayden Ashby. He also picked up 17 yards on a 2nd-and-13 reception during the Wildcats’ third possession plus 11 yards on a 1st-and-10 reception during the fifth possession.

Pima covered 80 yards in nine plays using 4:21. A Jake Whitaker to Ibeh-Young 23-yard pass capped the drive. The conversion pass fell incomplete.

The Roughriders gained 12 yards in three plays before throwing an interception after 2:03. A final possession collected 41 yards in nine plays using 4:37 but fell short on 4th-and-17.

Morenci went three-and-out twice on its remaining three possessions, gaining three and seven yards while using 2:48 and 2:10, respectively, and gained 25 yards in three plays before taking a knee to run down the clock.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci junior quarterback Brandon Blair is stopped by a Hughes sandwich, slowed by senior Brigden. left, and finished off by junior Brennon, right. Blair scored Morenci’s third first-half touchdown, giving the visitors a 22-6 advantage with 4:54 left in the half.

“They didn’t do anything we hadn’t already seen,” Gallegos said.

Pima possessed the ball nearly four minutes (3:56, 25:14-22:18) longer and took eight (52-44) more snaps than Morenci, but the Wildcats outgained the Roughriders by 36 (288-252) yards unofficially.

Morenci hosts Saint Johns (7-2, 1-2 Black Region) for the regular season finale Friday, Oct. 26. The visitors have a 5-1 record versus the Wildcats since 1992, 2-0 in Lawson Stadium, with an average score per game of 23-12 (163-73) or an average margin of 11 points.

Saint Johns has averaged a score of 41-19 (373-174) or a margin of 22 in games versus an average of 33-12 (301-107) or a margin of 21 per game for Morenci.

The Redskins averaged a score of 7-51 (13-102) or a deficit of 44 points compared to an average score of 1-23 (2-45) or a deficit of 22 by the Wildcats in losses to Thatcher and Round Valley.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci senior Mark Roybal intercepted an early fourth quarter pass, returning it eight yards before being stopped by Pima junior Brennon Hughes.

Saint Johns posted wins of 54-12 over Tempe Prep (3-7, 1-3 Gila Region) on Aug. 17, 81-0 over Rock Point (2-7, 2-4 Little Colorado Region) on Aug. 24, 27-18 over 3A Lakeside Blue Ride (4-4, 3-1 East Region) on Aug. 31, 61-0 over Globe (5-4, 3-1 Gila Region) on Sept. 7, 72-8 over Pinon (4-6, 4-2 Little Colorado Region) on Sept. 14, 23-20 over Pima on Sept. 28, and 42-14 over Benson (5-4, 3-0 San Pedro Region) on Oct. 19. The losses were 54-7 to Round Valley (7-2, 2-1) on Sept. 28 and 48-6 to Thatcher (9-0, 4-0) on Oct. 12.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: The Roughriders were clicking on all cylinders at the start of the game, scoring on a 73-yard run on their initial first down. The defense forced the visiting Wildcats to punt on their initial possession after losing two yards. However, Morenci left Edd Hubbard Field with a 2-1 site record and a 29-12 Black Region win.

Morenci has wins of 66-0 over Tucson Santa Rita (0-9, 0-4 San Pedro Region) on Aug. 24, 21-6 over Benson on Aug. 31, 38-6 over Willcox (7-2, 3-0 San Pedro Region) on Sept. 7, 42-12 over Eloy Santa Cruz (3-6, 2-2 Agua Fria Region) on Sept. 14, 64-20 over Bisbee (4-5, 1-2 San Pedro Region) on Sept. 21, 39-6 over New Mexico Bayard Cobre (2-6, 0-1 3A District 3) on Sept 28, and over Pima. The losses were 15-0 to the Eagles in Thatcher on Aug. 17 and 30-2 to the Round Valley Elks in Morenci on Oct. 12.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Pima cheerleaders take part in the halftime entertainment.

In the other Black Region members’ regular-season finales, Pima takes on Round Valley and Thatcher welcomes Tucson Santa Rita, both in Graham County.