Wildcats, Eagles both leave Lawson Stadium unbeaten; lightning forces rescheduled pairing, football season opener delayed a week

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: The Morenci versus Thatcher football game was canceled due to lightning and rescheduled for Oct. 11.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

MORENCI – The teams were prepared for the football season opener in Lawson Stadium Aug. 23. They both had four practice sessions this week to iron out the wrinkles after scrimmages the prior week.

“It’s a beginning,” first-year Morenci head coach Joseph Garcia said of the Aug. 15 scrimmage in Douglas.

“We saw what we wanted,” Thatcher second-year head coach Ramon Morales said of the three-team Aug. 16 scrimmage in Snowflake.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci Fire personnel were on hand to erect a tunnel for the Wildcats to enter the field, but it went unused because of a 2 ½ hour lightning delay and cancelation of the game.

Several players started pre-game warm-up drills. The 20 percent chance of rain forecast for 5 p.m. in Morenci did not materialize.

“We got a few drops coming through the Black Hills,” said Thatcher bus driver Harold Quinonez.

However, Mother Nature did not fully co-operate.

A two-and-a-half-hour lightning-caused delay forced a rescheduling of the Thatcher at Morenci Friday night pairing. The Black Region contest will be played during both team’s planned “bye” date on Oct. 11 Morenci Principal Bryan Boling said. Admission to the makeup game will be free.

The word was a certain amount of time needed to pass after the last sighted lightning strike within a specific proximity to the stadium. If the game had not started by 8:30 p.m., then it would not be held.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Dry Morenci senior cheerleader Yrliani Molina checks her phone while awaiting the start of the football game.

Originally, the call to clear the field and bleachers began close to 6 p.m. It continued until the decision was made to cancel and reschedule.

During the delay, a downpour prompted the removal of percussion instruments, audio equipment, and a photographic end zone set-up by the soaked band and coaching personnel.

The cheerleading squads both sought refuge in the training room under the stadium bleachers, and Morenci’s Pride Band did not enter the field, remaining in the school band room until summoned via mobile phone. Two different calls were received, “be on the field by a certain time” and “continued delays.”

Several would-be spectators stopped at the concession stand to get a bite to eat or something to drink, some stayed under areas not getting rain, some used umbrellas brought in case of rain, some spread tarps to get out of the rain, and some returned to the parking lot to get in their vehicles.

Local American Legion color guard members cleared the field and did not return. The standard-bearers for both teams, signifying the hardest working player, did not lead the teams onto the field. Thatcher’s sled hammer carrying player, noting the hardest working defensive player, also was not at the head of the visiting team. The team captains never met at midfield for the coin toss and Thatcher‘s 6-game winning streak over Morenci remained current.

Morenci’s last win over Thatcher came during the 2013 regular-season finale, 26-14 (Nov. 1) in the home of the red and black-clad boys since 1982. Eight days later, the Eagles began the first of a six-game win streak over the Wildcats. The scores were 29-6 (Nov. 9, 2013) in Mickelson Stadium, 27-20 (Oct. 31, 2014) in Thatcher, 29-0 (Sept. 16, 2015) in Morenci, 35-14 (Sept. 16, 2016) in Thatcher, 36-6 (Sept. 15, 2017) in Morenci, and 15-0 (Aug. 17, 2018) in Thatcher.

Jon Johnson Video/Gila Herald

By the time the venue cleared and the final vehicles left the parking lot, the sprinkler system kicked in watering the adjacent baseball field.

Morenci faces Santa Rita in Tucson and Thatcher welcomes Queen Creek American Leadership for season openers Aug. 30.

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