Wildcats get bye for 2A play-in game after Pumas forfeit due to COVID-19

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Pima senior Kaleb Blair tries a few yards against Morenci defenders Maddux Martinez (88) and Derek Saenz (3). The Roughriders tied the score at 15-15 with 1:22 remaining, but Morenci drove 15 yards in five plays for the go-ahead score. Morenci prevailed 21-15 and was scheduled to host No. 12 Maricopa Sequoia Pathway but the Pumas forfeited due to COVID-19. Top-ranked Benson welcomes No. 16 Pima for play-in games Friday, Nov. 20.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

MORENCI – The No. 5 Morenci Wildcats were scheduled to host the No. 12 Maricopa Sequoia Pathway Pumas for a 2A play-in game Friday, Nov. 20. However, the Pumas are in quarantine and have forfeited the game.

Sequoia Pathway (4-2 overall, 2.0040 rating) averaged a score of 29-24 (171-141) per game or a 5-point margin. The Pumas downed Bisbee 38-22 (Oct. 2) and Tombstone 55-0 (Oct. 9) in non-region play. The Gila Region wins were 24-22 over Chandler Prep (Oct. 16) and 48-6 over Laveen Heritage (Nov. 6). The region losses were 6-48 to Phoenix Veritas Prep (Oct. 23) and 0-43 to Eloy Santa Cruz (Oct. 30).

The Wildcats (6-1, 7.5927) averaged a score of 35-12 (248-83) per game or a 23-point margin. The Wildcats have 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 East 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).

The Pumas have scored 11 rushing touchdowns and 13 via passes, averaging 7.8 (140-1,091) yards with six rushers and 26.0 (48-1,617) yards with six receivers.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Freshman Michael Casillas is stopped by Pima sophomore Grant Ashby. Casillas scored two touchdowns and Ashby one.

Morenci scored on 35 rushing TDs and nine passing TDs, averaging 9.1 (201-1,829) yards with 12 rushers and 17.5 (31-542) yards with nine receivers. Additionally, three defensive TDS were scored, two on interception returns and one on a fumble recovery.

The other East Region team rankings are No. 1 Benson (6-0, 14.7608), No. 13 Willcox (3-2, 1.4920), No. 16 Pima (2-3, minus 3.0072), No. 27 Bisbee (1-6, minus 12.3450), and No. 28 Tombstone (0-7, minus 15.3042).

The East Region final standings were Benson first (4-0), Morenci second (4-1), Willcox third (3-2), Pima fourth (2-2), Bisbee fifth (1-4), and Tombstone sixth (0-5).

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Pima blockers position themselves as quarterback Kaleb Blair drops back to look for a receiver.

Morenci’s other two opponents; Phoenix North Point Prep (0-5, minus 11.8812) and San Tan Charter (3-4, minus 3.0160) are No. 26 and No. 15, respectively, following final rankings.

The other play-in pairings are No. 16 Pima at top-ranked Benson, No. 15 San Tan Charter (3-4, minus 3.0160) is at No. 2 Scottsdale Christian (6-0, 11.6270), No. 14 Veritas Prep (3-3, 1.4292) is at No. 3 Santa Cruz (5-1, 11.4441), No. 13 Willcox is at No. 4 Phoenix Arizona Lutheran (4-0, 10.4589), No. 11 Glendale Prep (5-2, 2.5463) at No. 6 Parker (4-1, 6. 8932), No. 10 Saint Johns (4-1, 5.2284) at No. 7 Chandler Prep (4-1, 6. 7493), and No. 9 Miami (5-1, 4530) at No. 8 Scottsdale Prep (5-1, 5.8669).

The quarterfinals are, also at the higher seed, Nov. 27. The semifinals are Dec. 5 and the final Dec. 12.

Wildcats – 21, Roughriders – 15

Freshman Michael Casillas ran in from the 2-yard line on 3rd-and-goal for his second touchdown of the evening. The third Morenci second-half possession resulted in a 21-15 lead with 14.5 seconds remaining. The conversion kick was short.

Pima started on the 26 and needed 74 yards for a score, threw an incomplete pass and the clock wound down before the Roughriders could advance the ball.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Wyatt Wiltbank is just beyond reach for a Morenci defender. The Pima sophomore averaged 6.7 (7-47) yards rushing against Morenci.

Senior Lance “LT” Morey gave the Wildcats a short distance to the goal line with a 66-yards kick return after the score was knotted. Pima tied the score at 15-15 on its third possession of the second half. Freshman Jaxon John kicked a 42-yard field goal with 1:22 remaining.

“A lot of people stepped up,” second-year Morenci head coach Joseph Garcia said.

The Wildcats scored on three of six possessions after fumbling away the opening kick. Pima also scored thrice but also yielded a safety.  

Pima recovered a fumbled opening kick, drove 22 yards in four plays, and led 6-0 with 2:07 elapsed in the game. Junior Brody Brown recovered the fumble and senior Kaleb Blair connected with sophomore Grant Ashby for a 19-yard touchdown. The conversion kick was blocked.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci quarterback Daylen Johnson sprints to the sideline to avoid Pima defender Leland Thompson.

The Roughriders yielded a safety after gaining 13 yards in seven plays, turned the ball over on downs after netting 43 yards in eight plays, and ran out of time, and lost a yard in three plays before the half.

Morenci turned the ball over on downs twice, gaining 40 yards in 12 plays and nine in four plays before driving 79 yards in eight plays for a score. Casillas covered 26 yards on 4th-and-9 and senior Brenden Enriquez added the conversion kick to take a 9-6 lead with 1:14 left in the first half.

Pima marched 61 yards in 12 plays to retake the lead (12-9) with 5:01 left in the third quarter. Blair crossed the goal line from a yard out on 2nd-and-goal. The conversion pass fell incomplete. The Roughriders were intercepted after three plays and losing a yard.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci sophomore Patrick Chavez Jr. pressures the quarterback to force an incompletion.

Morenci drove 62 yards in 15 plays on its initial second-half possession. Junior Demitri Briggs plunged into the end zone on 3rd-and-goal from the one. The conversion kick was wide. The Wildcats led 15-12.

Following a 6-yard gain in four plays, a turnover on downs resulted on the Wildcats’ next possession, ending with 6:29 left to play.

The Wildcats totaled 281 offensive yards, 196 on 36 carries, and 85 on five receptions compared to 204 yards, 151 on 32 carries, and 53 on three receptions by the Roughriders.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Fireworks lit up the sky over Lawson Stadium as the Wildcats concluded the regular season with a win.

Briggs averaged 10.5 (4-42) yards per carry, Casillas 9.0 (8-72) yards, Johnson 6.0 (3-18), Morey 3.1 (8-25) yards, and sophomore Patrick Chavez 3.0 (13-39) yards.

Johnson completed 5-11 passes for 85 yards with no interceptions. Sophomore Derek Saenz averaged 22.5 (2-45) yards, Casillas 15.0 (1-15) yards, and Martinez 12.5 (2-25) yards.

Defensively, six Wildcats recorded five or more tackles. Senior PaulDaniel Moreno totaled 11 tackles (7 solo, 4 assisted); senior Brenden Enriquez and Martinez both eight (6 solo, 2 assisted); junior Shawn Hudman seven (4 solo, 3 assisted), senior Adam Chacon six (3 solo, 3 assisted), and Richard Trott III five (2 solo, 3 assisted). Moreno intercepted a pass and Morey blocked a punt.

For the Roughriders, sophomore Leland Thompson averaged 25.0 (1-25) yards per carry, sophomore Wyatt Wiltbank 6.7 (7-47) yards, junior Brody Brown 3.5 (15-52) yards, and Blair 2.8 (9-25) yards.

Blair completed 3-8 passes for 53 yards with two interceptions. Ashby averaged 24.0 (2-48) yards per catch and Brown 5.0 (1-5) yards.