Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo/Gila Herald: The Wildcats celebrate the season-opening win over Maricopa Sequoia Pathway on Aug. 27. Morenci fell in 7-46 to Round Valley Sept. 3 and blanked Globe 50-0 Sept. 10. The 2-1 Wildcats welcome 1-2 Phoenix Madison Highland to Lawson Stadium on Sept. 17.
By Raymundo Frasquillo
MORENCI – Morenci will face the Phoenix Madison Highland Prep Heat for the first time on Friday, Sept. 17.
The Heat is 1-2 overall, averaging a score of 27-35 (86-106) per game or an 8-point deficit during its initial season in the 11-man format. Madison Highland Prep has fallen 16-54 to Phoenix NFL Yet (Sept. 10) and 6-52 to Scottsdale Prep (Sept. 3) after opening with a 64-0 win over California Winterhaven San Pasqual (Aug. 27). The Verde Region member competed as an 8-man program in the prior five seasons, going 10-19 overall with individual records of 1-3 (2020), 6-1 (2019), 2-4 (2018), 1-3 (2017), and 0-8 (2016).
Morenci is 2-1 with an average score per game of 34-19 (102-58) or a 15-point margin. The Wildcats posted a 50-0 road win over Globe (Sept. 10), a 7-46 road loss to Eagar Round Valley (Sept. 3), and a 45-12 win over Maricopa Sequoia Pathway in Lawson Stadium (Aug. 27).
The Wildcats are a combined 432-309-9 overall in 750 games played during the prior 75 seasons (1946-2020). Morenci stands 92-57 overall, 47-27 at home, and 44-40 on the road against its 2021 opponents since switching to the 2A Class in 1982.
To date, Morenci’s 2021 opponents are a combined 18-14 overall with San Pedro Region members being 11-6. Sequoia Pathway is 2-1, Round Valley 3-0, Globe 0-3, Madison Highland (Sept. 17) 1-2, Saint Johns (Sept. 24) 1-2, Bisbee (Oct. 1) 2-1, Tombstone (Oct. 8) 1-1, Benson (Oct. 15) 2-1, Willcox (Oct. 22) 3-0, and Pima (Oct. 29) 1-2.
This week, Sequoia Pathway hosts Bisbee, Round Valley host Chinle (2-1), Globe is idle, Madison Highland is at Morenci, Saint Johns at Gilbert Arete Prep (2-1), Bisbee at Sequoia Pathway, Tombstone at Tucson Tanque Verde (1-2), Benson hosts Phoenix NFL Yet (2-1), Willcox is at Phoenix Valley Lutheran (1-2), and Pima at Tucson Santa Rita (0-2).
Wildcats – 50, Tigers – 0
The host Tigers received the opening kick, needed 80 yards, but were limited to four yards after three plays and punted on 4th-and-six. They would punt again on 4th-and-25, turn the ball over on downs thrice, be intercepted, and ran out of time during six additional possessions.
Morenci responded to a loss by being extremely productive in Gila County during the first half, totaling 14 plays to score on all six possessions and forcing a running clock with 29 seconds left in the half.
“We made some adjustments, moved some linemen a little and I had time to read the defense,” junior quarterback Daylen Johnson said.
The Wildcats were able to move the ball, covering 49 yards in three plays, 73 yards in one play, 31 yards in two plays, 70 yards in four plays, 54 yards in two plays, and 60 yards in two plays.
Johnson connected with senior Tony Roybal for an 8-yard touchdown and junior Derek Saenz passed to sophomore Joseph Seballos for the conversion, giving the visitors an 8-0 advantage.
Sophomore Michael Casillas legged out the necessary distance on the first play from scrimmage for a second TD. Saenz added the conversion run for a 16-0 advantage with 2:03 left in the first quarter. Casillas scored his second TD (22-0) from 22 yards out as the buzzer sounded and his third (36-0) from 2-yards with 4:40 left in the half.
Johnson ran in from 43 yards away on a broken play and passed to sophomore Tristen Sanchez for a second aerial conversion (30-0). Johnson connected with Sanchez for a 15-yard TD and Sanchez kicked the extra point (43-0).
Morenci capped its scoring on the initial second-half possession, marching 53 yards in six plays and fumbled away their ensuing two possessions. Johnson connected with sophomore Tristen Sanchez for a 19-yard TD pass. Sanchez added the conversion kick with 3:54 left in the third quarter.
Globe turned the ball over on downs twice and punted on its final possession.
For the evening, Morenci netted 299 offensive yards, 233 on 11 rushes, and 66 with four pass receptions. Johnson averaged 43.0 (1-43) yards per carry, Casillas 24.0 (7-168) yards, and junior Patrick Chavez 7.3 (3-22) yards; Roybal averaged 16.7 (3-50) yards per catch and Sanchez 1-16, and Johnson completed 4-7 passes for 66 yards with no interceptions.
Defensively, Chavez (6 solo, 2 assisted) and Sanchez (3 solo, 5 assisted) both totaled eight tackles, senior Shawn Hudman (3 solo, 4 assisted) and sophomore Donovan Vozza (4 solo, 3 assisted) both seven, Casillas six (3 solo, 3 assisted), and sophomore Andrew Chavez four (1 solo, 3 assisted). Patrick Chavez had two quarterback sacks, and Andrew Chavez, sophomore Austyn Nelson, Sanchez, and senior Richard Trott III one apiece. Saenz intercepted a pass.
Elks – 46, Wildcats – 7
The Wildcats were out of sync, out of position on some plays, and trailed 24-0 before crossing the goal line. It took 15:25 into the game to score a touchdown during their fifth possession. Johnson connected with Sanchez for the TD and senior Brendon Enriquez added the conversion kick.
During its prior four possessions using 17 plays, Morenci picked up 17 of 77 yards in eight plays before having a punt blocked on 4th-and-15, needed 80 yards but punted on 4th-and-12, gained one of 76 yards before punting on 4th-and-9, and needed 80 yards but punted on 4th-and-14.
Round Valley scored on four of six first-half possessions, marching 75 yards in two plays, 12 yards in six plays, 51 yards in four plays, and 68 yards in seven plays. The other two possessions ended in a punt on 4th-and-9 and running out of time after netting 17 yards in two plays.
The Elks scored on a 55-yard pass plus conversion kick, a 30-yard field goal, a 5-yard run plus conversion kick, and a 1-yard run plus conversion kick. Round Valley added 22 unanswered second-half points.
Morenci totaled 165 yards, 79 on 24 carries and 86 on six receptions compared to 403yards, 230 on 31 carries, and 173 on 11 receptions by Round Valley.
Johnson (3-12), senior Demitri Briggs (3-12) yards, and Saenz (1-4) each averaged 4.0 yards per carry, Casillas 3.7 (12-44) yards, and Patrick Chavez 1.4 (5-7) yards. Sanchez averaged 35.0 (2-70) yards per catch, and both Roybal (3-12) and Saenz (1-4) 4.0 yards. Johnson completed 6-16 passes for 86 yards.
Sanchez totaled 12 tackles (8 solo, 4 assisted), Hudman (6 solo, 3 assisted) and junior Gavin Baca (5 solo, 4 assisted) both nine apiece, Enriquez eight (6 solo, 2 assisted), Roybal (5 solo, 2 assisted) and Casillas (3 solo, 4 assisted) both seven apiece, Patrick Chavez (3 solo, 3 assisted) and Vozza (4 solo, 2 assisted) both six apiece and senior Kaden Summer five (3 solo, 2 assisted). Sanchez and Baca both had a sack, Hudman caused and recovered a fumble, and both Saenz and Patrick Chavez deflected a pass.
For the host Elks, senior Seth Wiltbank (17-145) and sophomore Ryan Marble (8-68) both averaged 8.5 yards per carry, senior Jovan Ortiz 6.0 (1-6) yards, sophomore Gauge Baker 2.5 (4-10) yards, and senior Ganon Erhart 1.0 (1-1) yards. Ortiz averaged 21.5 (6-129) yards per catch, Rowdy Rivera 10.7 (3-32) yards, Wiltbank 8.0 (1-8) yards, and senior Stockton Brown 4.0 (1-4) yards. Marble completed 11-15 passes for 173 yards with no interceptions.
Marble rushed for three touchdowns, Wiltbank for one, Ortiz caught a pass for one, and senior Brandon Strickland recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown. Junior Kevin Flores kicked a field goal plus five conversions, and Wiltbank added a conversion run.
Defensively, sophomore Brett Jordan totaled eight tackles (3 solo, 5 assisted), Wiltbank six (3 solo, 3 assisted), senior Kyler Rominger (1 solo, 4 assisted), and junior Keanu Clark (2 solo, 3 assisted) five apiece, and senior Mike Orona four (1 solo, 3 assisted). Ortiz and Treyson Merrill both blocked punts, Clark sacked the quarterback, and senior Nico Pena intercepted a pass.
Wildcats – 45, Pumas – 12
The outcome of the game hinged on what was done when given the opportunity. The Wildcats scored on six of 10 possessions. The Maricopa Sequoia Pathway Pumas crossed the goal line twice during 11 possessions. Morenci snapped 49 offensive plays while Maricopa Sequoia Pathway had 43, and outscored its opponent 45-12 for a home triumph.
Morenci scored from 57 yards out in five plays on its initial possession. Johnson capped the drive with a 3-yard run and Roybal added the conversion run. The home team advantage was 8-0 with 3:12 elapsed.
The Wildcats turned the ball over on downs after gaining 21 yards on seven plays, punted on 4th-and-20 after three plays, and scored again on their fourth possession, marching 65 yards in seven plays, including 15 yards on three penalties. Casillas covered two yards for a 14-0 advantage with 5:21 remaining in the first quarter.
Sequoia Pathway started out 53 yards away and turned the ball over on downs, being short on 4th-and-4; fumbled away the ball 64 yards away on first down; and punted 61 yards away on 4th-and-4 before getting into the end zone during its fourth possession. The Pumas covered 47 yards in seven plays. Senior William Webber connected with classmate Johnnie Rolling-Tate for a 21-yard scoring pass. The visitors lit up their side of the scoreboard with 1:15 left in the quarter.
Morenci countered with an 18-yard Patrick Chavez run 43 seconds later. It capped a 44-yard drive in four plays. Saenz added the conversion run for a 22-6 advantage with 32 seconds left in the first half.
The Pumas faced an 80-yard trek but lost a yard on first down and the clock wound down before another snap of the ball.
Sequoia Pathway received the second-half kick, began 70 yards out, and netted 13 yards on seven plays before Morenci senior Tony Roybal intercepted a pass. Morenci returned the favor, being intercepted after gaining 25 of 85 yards five plays later. Junior defensive lineman Alec Webber hauled down the Morenci pass and returned it 30 yards. Senior Weston Klee crossed the goal line from two yards out, leaving the visitors with a 10-point deficit, 22-12, with 7:24 elapsed in the second half.
Morenci turned the ball over on downs following six plays but scored 23 points on its next three successive fourth-quarter possessions. Casillas capped a 48-yard, 4-play drive with a 14-yard run, and sophomore Austyn Nelson added the conversion kick with 10:17 left (29-12); senior Demitri Briggs capped a 48-yard drive with a 3-yard run and a Saenz to Tristen Sanchez conversion pass made it 37-12 at the 4:04 mark, and Casillas finished a 49-yard drive with a 20-yard run and Saenz added a conversion run with 2:35 left for the final score.
Sequoia Pathway was kept out of the end zone during its last four possessions. The Pumas fumbled after four plays netting 13 yards, turned the ball over on downs having gained 15 yards on five plays, turned the ball over on downs having gained three yards on five plays, and netted 15 yards in four plays,
Morenci amassed 452 offensive yards, 410 on 45 carries, and 42 on three receptions compared to 185 yards, 65 on 21 carries, and 120 on 11 receptions by the visitors.
Individually, Casillas averaged 11.6 (19-220) yards per carry, Chavez 10.3 (7-72) yards, Briggs 8.4 (5-42) yards, Johnson 7.8 (4-31) yards, Enriquez 5.3 (4-21) yards, Saenz 4.5 (4-18) yards, and Roybal 3.0 (2-6) yards.
Johnson completed 2-7 passes for 39 yards with one interception and Saenz 1-1 for three yards. Saenz caught a pass for 34 yards, Roybal 1-5, and Sanchez 1-3.
Defensively, Enriquez totaled 10 tackles (6 solo, 4 assisted), Sanchez (4 solo, 4 assisted) and Vozza (5 solo, 3 assisted) eight apiece, Hudman seven (4 solo, 3 assisted), Baca (4 solo, 2 assisted), Casillas (3 solo, 3 assisted), and Andrew Chavez (3 solo, 3 assisted) six apiece, Saenz (4 solo, 1 assisted), Patrick Chavez (2 solo, 3 assisted), and Summer (4 solo, 1 assisted) five each, and Roybal four (2 solo, 2 assisted).
Baca had three sacks, and Andrew Chavez, Roybal, Sanchez, and Trott one apiece; Hudman, Roybal, and Vozza recovered a fumble; and Roybal intercepted a pass.
For the Pumas, senior Tre Lacey averaged 5.7 (6-34) yards per carry, junior Carnell Reed 5.3 (3-16) yards, senior Weston Klee 1.3 (6-8) yards, and senior William Webber 1.2 (6-7) yards. Lacey averaged 13.2 (5-66) yards per catch, senior Jyrie Gamble 12.3 (3-37) yards, and Reed 5.7 (3-17) yards. Webber completed 11-21 passes for 120 yards with an interception.
Defensively, sophomore Norien Banks and senior Curtis David had nine tackles apiece, senior Damion Lyons seven, senior Arrick Sheppard-Stine five, and sophomores Kyrese Banks, Lavon Neal, and Jeremiah Irving four each.