Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Saint Johns senior Mike Ballejos heads into the end zone from two yards out. It was his second score of the game, giving the Redskins a 42-0 advantage with 13 seconds left in the first half. Saint Johns posted a 49-0 Mercy-Ruled Black Region win over Morenci on Nov. 1
By Raymundo Frasquillo
GLENDALE – No. 15 Morenci will take on the No. 2 ranked Trivium Prep Crimson Knights in the first round of the 2A State Playoffs on Friday, Nov. 8. It is the fifth consecutive state meet for Morenci and the initial meeting between the two programs.
Six of the Wildcats’ 2019 opponents are also in the playoffs while only two of the Crimson Knights’ opponents made the state tourney field. Four Black Region members (No. 1, 6, 7, 15) compared to two Verde Region teams (No. 2, 5) are in the Top 16. Morenci’s average opponents’ rating is 4.6997 compared to minus 2.4162 for Trivium Prep.
There are three entrants from the Agua Fria Region (No. 3, 4, 11), two each from the Gila (No. 13, 16), Salt (No. 8, 12), and San Pedro (No. 9, 10), and one from the Little Colorado (No. 14).
“Everybody is 0-0 in the playoffs,” first-year Morenci head coach Joseph Garcia said. “It’s a new season.”
The No. 2 Crimson Knights (9-0 overall, 14.1626 rating, 4-0 Verde Region for 1st) have averaged a score of 40-22 (360-194) per game or an 18-point margin. Trivium Prep has wins of 47-14 over Glendale Prep (Aug. 23), 28-13 over Phoenix Veritas Prep (Aug. 30), 55-27 over Sedona Red Rock (Sept. 6), 30-8 over Phoenix North Pointe Prep (Sept. 13), 47-28 over Chandler Prep (Sept. 20), 15-13 over Scottsdale Prep (Sept. 27), 41-28 over Parker (Oct. 4), 56-48 over Camp Verde (Oct. 25), and 41-15 over Tonopah Valley (Nov. 1).
Morenci (4-6, 0.5635, 1-3 Black Region for 4th) has been outscored by an average of 38-19 (380-186) per game or by a 19-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 six 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), 47-12 to Round Valley (Oct. 18), and 49-0 to Saint Johns (Nov. 1).
The other first-round lower bracket pairings are:
No. 14 Whiteriver Alchesay (8-2, 1.8341, 7-0 Little Colorado Region for 1st) at No. 3 Phoenix Christian (9-1, 12.6775, 4-0 Agua Fria Region for 1st),
No. 11 Phoenix Arizona Lutheran (7-3, 4.2553, 2-2 Agua Fria Region for 3rd) at No. 6 Saint Johns (8-2, 10.7344, 3-1 region for 2nd), and
No. 10 Bisbee (8-2, 5.4157, 3-1 San Pedro Region for 2nd) at No. 7 Thatcher (6-4, 10.3892, 2-2 East Region for 3rd).
The upper bracket has No. 16 Miami (7-3, minus 0.2181, 4-1 Gila Region for 2nd) at No. 1 Round Valley (7-2, 15.8159, 4-0 East Region for 1st),
No. 9 Benson (7-3, 7.6742, 4-0 San Pedro Region for 1st) at No. 8 Phoenix Veritas Prep (8-2, 9.5693, 5-0 Salt Region for 1st),
No. 12 Wellton Antelope (7-3, 3.1708, 4-1 Salt Region for 2nd) at No. 5 Parker (9-1, 11.4624, 301 Verde Region for 2nd), and
No. 13 Chandler Prep (7-3, 3.1083, 5-0 Gila Region for 1st) at No. 4 Eloy Santa Cruz (8-2, 11.9568, 3-1 Agua Fria Region for 2nd).
The final Black Region standings were Round Valley first (4-0), Saint Johns second (3-1), Thatcher third (2-2), Morenci fourth (1-3), and Pima fifth (0-4).
Garcia is in his 14th year of coaching. He was an assistant for six seasons (2013-18) before becoming the head coach at Morenci. He also spent seven seasons (2006-12) in Willcox, six as an assistant before becoming the head coach. The Cowboys qualified for the championship game as a No. 9 seed in 2009.
Saint Johns – 49, Morenci – 0
The Wildcats had slightly more than three minutes more possession time than Saint Johns, but it was not their “finest hour.” The bulk of the time came during a second-half running clock.
A 29-0 loss in Morenci last season was not forgotten by the 14 Redskins introduced on Senior Night. The scene was set and Morenci snapped no more than six plays or maintained possession much longer than three minutes.
The Wildcats had seven first-half possessions, each having long distances to cover, ending in punts four times, fumbles twice, and turning the ball over on downs once.
Morenci punted after losing three yards in three plays using 1:38, fumbled after gaining 38 yards in five plays using 1:12, punted after losing five yards in three plays using 1:40, turned the ball over on downs after gaining 14 yards in six plays using 3:04, fumbled after gaining four yards in two plays using 45 seconds, punted after gaining a yard in three plays using 1:08, and punted after gaining two yards in three plays using 1:53.
Saint Johns also had seven first-half possessions but had less than half the field to cover. The Redskins gained 35 yards in seven plays using 2:57 during their initial possession but turned the ball over on downs after losing a yard on 4th-and-3. Their six ensuing possessions ended in scores, leading 14-0 after a quarter and 42-0 at halftime. They covered 47 yards in two plays using 38 seconds, 22 yards in three plays using 28 seconds, 39 yards in four plays plus a penalty using 2:13, 40 yards in two plays using 45 seconds, 35 yards in three plays using 1:37, and 58 yards in nine plays using 3:38.
Senior quarterback Ramon Sanchez connected with senior Graham Nielson for a 47-yard touchdown, senior Mark Ballejos ran in from 12 yards out, junior Ira Tullous ran in from 18 yards out, Sanchez to Tullous for a 31-yard TD, Sanchez to Neilson for a 35-yard TD, and Ballejos ran in from two yards out. Junior Gaige Trickey added the six conversion kicks.
Saint Johns received the second-half kick but was intercepted on the first play by sophomore Tony Roybal. The Wildcats gained 27 yards in six plays using 4:01 but were intercepted by Tullous on 4th-and-22.
The Redskins punted on 4th-and-5 after gaining 20 yards in five plays using 4:15, Morenci gained three yards in three plays using 1:53 before fumbling, and Saint John covered 27 yards in four plays using 2:46 for a final score. Junior reserve quarterback Dion Perry ran in from 10 yards out and Trickey added a seventh conversion kick.
Morenci gained 25 yards in 11 plays using 7:44 before being intercepted on 2nd-and-5 by sophomore James Thomas. The Redskins gained 16 yards in two plays using 1:40 before running out of time.
Unofficially on the night, Morenci totaled 106 offensive yards, 10 on a penalty, 59 on 35 carries and 37 on 3-10 passes with two interceptions. Saint Johns had 339 offensive yards, 18 on penalties, 199 on 36 carries, and 122 on 6-11 passes with an interception.
The Wildcats had not been shut out since succumbing 15-0 during the 2018 season opener at Thatcher (Aug. 24), or in 20 previous games. The score matched the Mercy-Ruled win Benson left Lawson Stadium in 2007 (Oct. 5). In between, Morenci was blanked seven other times, 35-0 at Tombstone (Oct. 10, 2008), 36-0 at Willcox (Oct. 2, 2009), 40-0 at Round Valley (Sept. 29, 2013), 46-0 at Round Valley (Sept. 19, 2014), 29-0 at Thatcher (Sept. 4, 2015), 30-0 at Pima (Oct. 28, 2016), and 44-0 at Round Valley (Oct. 7, 2017).