Wildcats face region leading unbeaten Cowboys on Friday

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: The Benson Bobcats enter the Jerry P. Lee Athletics Complex as the No. 8 ranked team, facing No. 3 Morenci on Oct. 15. Benson prevailed 42-7 in the San Pedro contest and the teams switched places. Benson visits No. 29 Tombstone and Morenci hosts No. 5 Willcox on Friday, Oct. 22.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

MORENCI – The Joseph Garcia-coached Morenci Wildcats host unbeaten Willcox for a fourth San Pedro Region pairing Friday, Oct. 22. The No. 8 Wildcats (6-2 overall, 6.5796 rating, 2-1 region) face the No. 5 Cowboys (7-0, 8.2620, 2-0) in Lawson Stadium.

Willcox has averaged a 46-6 (320-41) score per game or 40-point margin. The Cowboys have wins of 57-0 over Globe (Aug. 27), 17-0 over Tucson Tanque Verde (Sept. 3), 48-14 over Queen Creek San Tan Foothills (Sept. 10), 36-6 over Phoenix Valley Lutheran (Sept. 17), 63-0 over Phoenix North Pointe Prep (Sept. 24), 53-14 over Tombstone (Oct. 1), and 46-7 over Bisbee (Oct. 15).

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci sophomore Tristen Sanchez (82) and junior Gavin Baca (5) sandwich Benson senior Tristan Martinez between them. The defensive action limited the running back to minus-two yards on a 2nd-and-14 third-quarter play. Martinez ended the evening with 52 yards on nine carries.

Morenci has a 40-15 (317-120) average score per game or 25-point margin. The wins were 45-12 over Maricopa Sequoia Pathway (Aug. 27), 55-0 over Globe (Sept. 10), 72-0 over Phoenix Madison Highland (Sept. 17), 27-7 over Saint Johns (Sept. 24), 46-7 over Bisbee (Oct. 1), and 58-6 over Tombstone (Oct. 8). The losses are 46-7 to Eagar Round Valley (Sept. 3) and 42-7 to Benson (Oct. 15).

The Wildcats are 27-22-1 versus the Cowboys since 1965, 11-12 in Morenci with an average score of 19-17 (941-845) per game or a 2-point margin, 7-9 in Lawson Stadium since 1982, and have a 10-game (2011-20) active win streak with an average score of 37-10 (370-104) per game or a 27-point margin.

Other San Pedro Region contests this week are No. 29 Tombstone (2-5, minus 8.9864, 0-3) versus No. 3 Benson (5-2, 9.3731, 2-1) and No. 6 Pima (5-2, 7.8681, 2-0) at No. 26 Bisbee (3-5, minus 6.3474, 0-3) Oct. 22.

Tombstone has a 16-35 (115-245) score per game or a 19-point deficit, Benson a 33-10 (266-76) score per game or a 23-point margin, Pima a 32-8 (226-58) score per game or 24-point margin, and Bisbee a 26-30 (211-240) score per game or 4-point deficit.

Last week in San Pedro Region pairings, the Oct. 14 Tombstone at Pima game favored Pima 45-0, the Oct. 15 Morenci at Benson game favored Benson 42-7, and the Oct. 16 Bisbee at Willcox game favored Willcox 46-7.

Following eight weeks of the regular season, Morenci’s 2021 opponents are a combined 40-34 overall. Maricopa Sequoia Pathway is 5-3, Eagar Round Valley 8-0, Globe 0-7, Phoenix Madison Highland 1-7, Saint Johns 5-3, Bisbee 3-5, Tombstone 2-5, Benson 5-2, Willcox (Oct. 22) 7-0, and Pima (Oct. 29) 5-2.

The six San Pedro Region members are a combined 28-16 (.667) overall. The other 38 teams, the four in the Little Colorado Region have a combined overall record of 16-11 (.593), the five in the Gila Region 22-18 (.550), the five in the Agua Fria Region 18-20 (.474), the five in the Verde Region 14-20 (.412), the five in the Hassayampa Region 14-20 (.412), the six in the Salt Region 18-26 (.409), the five in the Rillito Region 15-22 (.405), and the 3-team San Juan Region 3-10 (.231).

Week eight of the regular season has Saint Johns hosting Holbrook, Sequoia Pathway at Tucson Santa Rita in Rillito Region play, Round Valley hosting Snowflake in 3A East Region play, Globe at San Carlos in Salt Region play, and Madison Highland hosting Scottsdale Christian in Verde Region play on Oct. 22.

Last week, Morenci’s non-region opponents went 2-3. Eloy Santa Cruz defeated Sequoia Pathway 27-18 in region play, Round Valley defeated Goodyear Estrella Foothills 51-7, Gilbert Arete Prep defeated Globe 55-14 in region play, Wellton Antelope defeated Madison Highland 46-9 in region play, and Saint Johns defeated Pinon 65-0.

Week four of 2A statewide rankings for 44 teams on Oct. 19 had eight remaining the same, four moving up, four dropping down, one dropping out, and one replacing the dropout in the Top 16.

The four San Pedro Region members, -Morenci dropped down from No. 3 to No. 8, Pima moved up from No. 7 to No. 6, Willcox stayed at No. 5, and Benson moved up from No. 8 to No. 3. The other two members both dropped down, Bisbee from No. 21 to No. 26 and Tombstone No. 28 to No. 29.

Five of the other eight regions, the Agua Fria Region, the Gila Region, the Little Colorado Region, the Salt Region, and the Verde Region each have two teams in the Top 16. The Rillito Region and the Hassayampa Region both have one team in there.

Parker (7-0 overall, 17.5149 rating, 2-0 Agua Fria Region) stayed at No. 1, Arizona Lutheran (7-1, 12.2849, 2-0 Gila Region) stayed at No. 2, Benson moved up from No. 8 to No. 3, Gilbert Christian (6-2, 8.8681, 3-0 Salt Region) stayed at No. 4, Willcox stayed at No. 5, Pima moved up from No. 7 to No. 6, Holbrook (7-1, 7.3288, 2-0 Little Colorado Region) dropped down from No. 6 to No. 7, Morenci dropped down from No. 3 to No. 8, Scottsdale Prep (7-0, 6.0370, 4-0 Verde Region) stayed at No. 9, Camp Verde (6-2, 5.0374, 2-1 Agua Fria Region) stayed at No. 10, Chandler Prep (6-2, 4.3855, 2-0 Gila Region) stayed at No. 11, Saint Johns (5-3, 2.9580, 1-0 Little Colorado Region) stayed at No. 12, Miami (4-3, minus 0.0832, 2-1 Salt Region up) moved up from No. 17 to No. 13, Scottsdale Christian (3-3, minus 0.1406, 0-0 Verde Region) moved up from No. 16 to No. 14, Sequoia Pathway (5-3, minus 0.1778, 2-1 Rillito Region) dropped down from No. 13 to No. 15, and Antelope (6-2, minus 0.2718, 2-0) dropped down from No. 15 to No. 16.

The team dropping out was Tanque Verde (4-3, minus 0.5904, 0-1 Rillito Region up) from No. 14 to No. 17.

Bobcats – 42, Wildcats – 7

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Benson senior running back duo Jace Barney (34) and Devin Bowling (6) blocked for one another. Bowling averaged 14.8 (12-177) yards per carry and Barney 10.2 (13-132) yards. Two touchdowns were scored by each player.

Morenci received the second-half kick, drove 69 yards in 12 plays using 7:18. Sophomore Michael Casillas capped the drive with a 1-yard run and sophomore Austyn Nelson added the conversion kick.

On their ensuing possessions, the Wildcats fumbled after gaining four yards on two plays, were intercepted after gaining 14 yards on eight plays plus a 5-yard penalty, and gained 62 yards on eight plays before running out of time.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Junior quarterback Daylen Johnson receives an offensive play from third-year Morenci head coach Joseph Garcia.

Benson punted twice, after gaining two yards in three plays and 12 yards in five plays, and drove 50 yards in three plays. Senior Devin Bowling ran 40 yards to cap the second possession drive and Wyatt Wilharm added the conversion kick.

During the final 24 minutes, the Wildcats outgained their hosts 149 yards on 30 offensive plays during four possessions compared to 64 yards on 11 plays on three possessions. The second-half scoring was knotted 7-7.

On paper and prior to kickoff, the No. 3 ranked and region leading Wildcats should have walked off the Jerry P. Lee Athletics Complex with a win over the No. 8 Bobcats. Instead, they left with a region loss.

The difference turned out to be the mental focus. Benson was playing for a recently diagnosed cancer member of its community, 13-year-old Chase Marizo. His initials and youth league jersey number adorned their helmet backs and was painted beneath the mid-field “B.” A dozen Bobcats assured the current 3-game win-streak over Morenci did not snap. They made it four in a row, averaging a 35-5 (140-20) score per game, and won 13 of 20 in Benson since 1982.

“Good for them, they were able to come together as a team,” third-year Morenci head coach Joseph Garcia said. “We didn’t have the right intensity and focus.”

The Wildcats dropped to both eighth in the state rankings and fourth in the region standings, from being No. 3 and atop the region standings prior to the game.

Benson scored five times in six first-half possessions, snapping 33 plays covering 336 yards. The visitors were kept out of the end zone and gained six yards on 13 plays plus 15 on a penalty during five possessions.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Initials for Chase Marizo and his youth league jersey number 24 adorn the helmet backs of the Benson Bobcats. His number was also beneath the mid-field “B.”

The hosts received the opening kick and covered 80 yards in six plays, 92 yards in nine plays, 36 yards in four plays following a recovered onside kick, 43 yards in three plays, and 80 yards in eight plays.

Senior Tristan Martinez capped the 80-yard drive with a 3rd-and-14 17-yard run. Wilharm added his first of six conversion kicks. Benson led 7-0 with 2:37 elapsed.

Senior Jace Barney punctuated the 92-yard drive with a 1st-and-goal 4-yard run. Wilharm added the conversion kick. Benson led 14-0 with 8:43 elapsed.

Senior Devin Bowling finished the 36-yard march with a 1st-and-goal 4-yard run. Wilharm added the conversion kick. Benson led 21-0 with 1:09 left in the first quarter.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Michael Casillas runs behind blockers Brendon Enriquez (10) and Patrick Chavez (13) for some yardage. The Morenci sophomore scored the Wildcats’ lone touchdown, capping a 69-yard, 12-play drive using 7:18, with a 1-yard third-quarter run.

The Bobcats’ fourth possession netted five yards during three plays and resulted in a punt.

Barney ran in from two yards out and Wilharm added the conversion kick. Benson led 28-0 with 5:05 elapsed in the second quarter.

Senior Jimmy Lerblance reeled in senior Brok Determan’s pass on 3rd-and-13 for a 15-yard touchdown. Wilharm added the conversion kick. Benson led 35-0 with 10.5 seconds left in the first half.

“I didn’t expect the game to turn out like this,” remarked a game official.

For the game, the Wildcats covered 155 yards during 43 plays compared to 400 yards in 44 plays by Benson, both during nine possessions.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci team captains Tony Roybal (9), Gavin Baca (5), Shawn Hudman (65), and Brendon Enriquez (10) meet the Benson captains at mid-field. Game official Lee Alaban introduces himself and gives instructions on procedures prior to the coin toss.

Johnson averaged 8.0 (5-40) yards per carry, Patrick Chavez 4.8 (8-38) yards, Casillas 4.4 (14-62), and Saenz 2.0 (1-2) yards. Casillas averaged 15.0 (1-15) yards per catch, sophomore Tristen Sanchez 11.5 (2-23) yards, and both senior Tony Roybal and junior Gavin Baca 9.0 (1-9) yards. Johnson completed 5-12 passes for 51 yards with one interception.

Defensively, 14 different Wildcats had at least one tackle. Senior Brendon Enriquez totaled 10 tackles (6 solo, 4 assisted), both Casillas (6 solo, 2 assisted), and Sanchez (5 solo, 3 assisted) with eight apiece, senior Shawn Hudman seven (5 solo, 2 assisted), sophomore Donovan Vozza six (3 solo, 3 assisted), (5 solo, 2 assisted), Roybal (4 solo, 1 assisted) and senior Kaden Summer (3 solo, 2 assisted) five each, and Baca (4 solo), sophomore Andrew Chavez (2 solo, 2 assisted), and senior Jericho Sanchez (2 solo, 2 assisted). Tristen Sanchez had a quarterback sack.

For Benson, Bowling averaged 14.8 (12-177) yards per carry, Barney 10.2 (13-132) yards, Martinez 5.8 (9-52) yards, sophomore Dalton Crockett 5.0 (2-10) yards, and Determan minus 1.0 (2-minus 2). Junior Aiden Finch caught a pass for 36 yards and Lerblance one for 15 yards. Determan completed 2-4 passes for 51 yards with no interceptions.

Defensively, 13 Bobcats recorded at least one tackle. Senior Mundo Esparza had six tackles (6 solo), and senior Ryan Francione, senior Cameron McFarland, and senior Gabe Osuna had five (4 solo, 1 assisted) apiece. McFarland and Wilharm both recorded a quarterback sack, Wilharm an interception, Bowling a fumble recovery, and Determan a pass deflection.