Wildcats forfeit to top-ranked Benson in 2A quarterfinal

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Conditioning drills were run Monday in preparation for the quarterfinal pairing Friday. The Wildcats were knocking on the door but fell victim to the global health crisis. Morenci forfeited to Benson for the Nov. 27 pairing. The Bobcats face the No. 5 Parker – No. 4 Arizona Lutheran winner for the semifinals at Gilbert Higley on Dec. 5.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

MORENCI – San Pedro Region runner-up Morenci (7-1 overall, 7.0587 rating, 4-1 region) dropped to No. 8 for the final rankings and was to face top-ranked Benson (7-0, 13.9686, 4-0) in Benson for a quarterfinal Friday, Nov. 27. The pairing will not occur as Morenci forfeited, having fallen victim to the global health crisis.

The Wildcats were reminded to take care of things they could control all season-long. However, through contact tracing, several of them will need to quarantine and are no longer available to take part in the remaining playoffs. Benson advanced to the semifinals just as the Wildcats did from the play-in round last week, without having to dress out or step on the field.

San Pedro Region champion Benson eliminated Pima (3-3, minus 3.9972, 2-2) 28-7 and then-No. 5 Morenci advanced to the quarterfinals following a forfeit from No. 12 Maricopa Sequoia Pathway (4-3, 2.0040, 2-1) Nov. 20. The Pumas fell victim to the global health crisis.

Three other region champions and three other region runners-up are in the quarterfinals. The pairings are Agua Fria champion Parker (No. 5, 5-1, 9.0140, 4-1 region) at Gila runner-up Phoenix Arizona Lutheran (No. 4, 5-0, 9.0140, 4-0), Verde runner-up Scottsdale Prep (No. 6, 7-1, 7.8241, 5-1) at Gila champion Eloy Santa Cruz (No. 3, 6-1, 12.1425, 5-1), and Salt runner-up Saint Johns (No. 7, 5-1, 7.3576, 4-1) at Verde champion Scottsdale Christian (No. 2, 7-0, 12.5487, 6-0).

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Freshman Michael Casillas takes the hand-off and runs behind junior Dimitri Briggs (RIGHT) and sophomore Patrick Chavez Jr. through the right side of the line. Casillas averaged 11.6 (27-314) yards per carry and scored six touchdowns, Briggs averaged 15.0 (11-165) yards and scored twice, and Chavez averaged 9.9 (47-230) yards.

The semifinals are at Gilbert Higley Saturday, Dec. 5, and the final at Scottsdale Coronado Saturday, Dec. 12.

Other play-in pairing results were No. 2 Scottsdale Christian 42-12 over No. 15 San Tan Charter (3-4, minus 3.0160), No. 3 Santa Cruz 60-6 over No. 14 Phoenix Veritas Prep (3-4, 1.4292), No. 4 Arizona Lutheran 41-8 over No. 13 Willcox (3-3, 1.4920), No. 6 Parker 56-20 over No. 11 Glendale Prep (5-3, 2.5463), No. 10 Saint Johns 21-14 over No. 7 Chandler Prep (4-2, 6.7493), and No. 8 Scottsdale Prep 60-42 over No. 9 Miami (5-1, 5.4530).

Morenci at Benson

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Lance “LT” Morey (RIGHT) looks to follow his blockers, junior Shawn Hudman and sophomore Patrick Chavez Jr. while executing a running play. Morey averaged 8.3 (70-584) yards per carry and scored nine touchdowns. The Wildcats averaged 9.1 (201-1,829) yards per carry and scored 24 rushing touchdowns during the 7-game regular season.

It isn’t often one gets a second chance in life to do it over or change something.

Morenci had a second chance to defeat the Bobcats, but in Benson as the No. 8 ranked team against the No. 1. A prior meeting earlier in the season had both unbeaten and unranked. Benson prevailed 12-6 in Morenci. This time, Morenci was unbeaten on the road and Benson at home.

The teams were similar on paper, each having unheralded lineman for a run-oriented offensive attack and were able to advance the ball via the pass if need be.

Benson averaged 8.6 (211-1,806) yards with 13 rushers and 21.5 (13-279) yards with six receivers during six regular-season games.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Sophomore Daylen Johnson drops back behind his wall to look for a receiver. He completed 34 of 60 passes for 547 yards with four interceptions. Nine of his passes ended as touchdowns.

When called upon, junior Gabe Osuna averaged 50.0 yards per carry, Junior Bock Determan 13.8 yards, sophomore Angel Rigney 10.3 yards, junior Devin Bowling 10.1 yards, juniors Jacob Allred and Tristen Martinez both 9.5 yards, sophomore Connor Curtiss 8.0 yards, junior Jace Barney 5.4 yards, sophomore Jace Carroll 5.2 yards, freshman Liem Cluff 5.0 yards, freshman Tyra Colton 4.7 yards, junior Mundo Esparza 0.5 yards.

Determan completed 13-26 passes for 281 yards with one interception. Rigney averaged 70.0 yards per catch, junior Jimmy Lerblance 26.0 yards, Barney 14.0 yards, Bowling 12.0 yards, Martinez 9.0 yards, and Esparza 7.0 yards.

The Bobcats averaged a score of 36-5 (213-29) per game or a 31-point margin during six regular-season games. Benson topped Verde Region Phoenix Veritas Prep 21-0 (Oct. 2), Salt Region Miami 40-16 (Oct. 9) plus region opponents Bisbee 38-22 (Oct. 23), Morenci 12-6 (Oct. 30), Tombstone 56-7 (Nov. 6), and Willcox 42-0 (Nov. 13). The Oct. 16 Pima region game fell victim to the global health crisis.

Benson scored 186 points with 31 TDs on 25 runs, four passes, an interception return, and a punt return. Conversion points were added on 27-29 kicks.

Determan scored 11 rushing touchdowns, Barney six, junior Tristen Martinez five, and junior Mundo Esparza, and sophomores Jace Carroll and Angel Rigney one apiece.

Three aerial TDs were recorded by Lerblance and one by Rigney. Martinez returned a punt and Rigney an interception for TDs. The kicks were also added by Rigney.

San Pedro Region runner-up Morenci averaged 9.1 (201-1,829) yards with 12 rushers and 17.5 (31-542) yards with nine receivers during seven regular-season games.

Senior Dakota Bamburg averaged 40.0 yards per carry, sophomore Dillen Aker 28.7 yards, junior Kaden Summer 20.0 yards, sophomore Devin Baca 19.0 yards, senior Brenden Enriquez 15.7 yards, junior Demitri Briggs 15.0 yards, freshman Michael Casillas 11.6 yards, senior Lance Morey 8.3 yards, sophomore Derek Saenz 7.3 yards, sophomore Daylen Johnson 6.9 yards, sophomore Patrick Chavez Jr. 4.9 yards, and senior PaulDaniel Moreno 1.0 yard.

Johnson completed 34-60 passes for 547 yards with four interceptions. Martinez averaged 20.4 yards per catch, Saenz 20.0 yards, Baca 18.0 yards, Casillas 15.0 yards, junior Tony Roybal 14.6 yards, freshman Tristan Sanchez 10.0 yards, and junior Nicholas Patterson 6.0 yards.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: The Wildcats used sprints toward the end of practice sessions to prepare for the next game.

Morenci averaged a score of 35-12 (248-83) per game or a 23-point margin. The Wildcats got a pair of non-region wins, 76-0 over Verde Region Phoenix North Pointe Prep (Oct. 2) and 21-14 over Salt Region Gilbert San Tan Charter (Oct. 9). The four region wins were 39-14 over Bisbee (Oct. 16), 58-7 over Tombstone (Oct. 23), 27-21 over Willcox (Nov. 6), and 25-15 over Pima (Nov. 13). The region loss was 6-12 to Benson (Oct. 30).

Two hundred sixteen points were scored with 36 touchdowns on 23 rushes, on nine passes, on two interception returns, and on two fumble recoveries along with 26 conversion points on 20-27 kicks and on three runs, and six on three safeties.

Morey scored nine rushing touchdowns, Casillas six, Johnson three, Enriquez two, and Aker, Baca, and Briggs one each. Martinez scored six aerial touchdowns, and Roybal, Saenz, and Sanchez one apiece.

Bamburg and Roybal both scored on interception returns and Briggs and Sanchez on a fumble recovery apiece.

The 26 conversion points were on 20 Enriquez kicks and on runs by Moreno, Morey, and Saenz. Six safety points were added by Baca (2) and Moreno.

21st Century state playoffs

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Second-year Morenci Head Football Coach Joseph Garcia (11-9 overall, 4-3 region, 0-2 state playoffs) addresses the Wildcats about controlling what they can. The 2020 Wildcats averaged a 28-9 (249-84) score per game or a 19-point margin compared to 19-38 (214-415) score per game or a minus 19 deficit in 2019.

It is the 13th time Morenci qualified for the state playoffs in the 21st Century (2000-19), the 10th since the 2A started using rankings (2007), the sixth consecutive post-season trip, and the second under Garcia. The Wildcats were 8-12 since 2000, 7-10 since 2007, 3-5 since 2015, and 0-1 under Garcia in the playoffs.

Benson is on its 12th trip to the playoffs since 2000 (12-12), the 10th since 2007 (10-10), and its third straight (2-2).

The Bobcats were state runners-up in 2015 as the top-ranked team and the Wildcats in 2012 as No. 2, but neither team has advanced past the quarterfinals in the most recent three seasons.

Morenci Head Coach Joseph Garcia was an assistant to current Pima Coach Jim Hughes at Willcox in 2009. The Cowboys reached the championship game by eliminating No. 1 Phoenix Northwest Christian in the quarterfinals and No. 5 Yuma Catholic in the semifinals.

The physical preparation was in place for both teams. The mental aspect of believing in oneself, in teammates, and the system in place has a lot to do with what can be accomplished.

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