Wildcats head for “The town too tough to die” on Friday

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci’s 56th homecoming royalty was crowned at halftime of the home game with Bisbee, a 46-7 region win on Oct. 1. Seniors Elianna Cazares, left, and Jericho Sanchez (76) were the queen and king, respectively. Juniors Patrick Chavez (13) and Alicia Cruz, right, were the prince and princess, respectively. The 5-1 Wildcats are at 2-3 Tombstone for a second region contest Friday, Oct. 8.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

TOMBSTONE – Morenci heads to “The town too tough to die” to take on Tombstone on Friday, Oct. 8. The San Pedro Region pairing has the No. 4 Wildcats (5-1 overall, 10.1762 rating, 1-0 region) at the No. 25 Yellow Jackets (2-3, minus 6.8599, 0-1).

The Yellow Jackets are averaging a 22-28 (109-142) score per game or a 6-point deficit. The wins were over Tucson schools Santa Rita (42-0, Aug. 27) and Catalina (47-0, Sept. 24) while losses were 35-0 to Chandler Pre (Sept. 3), 54-6 to Tucson Tanque Verde (Sept. 17), and 53-14 to Willcox (Oct. 1).

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: The Pride Band performed its halftime program at the game’s end, because of the duration of the homecoming coronation. Sophomore Joshua Biggs (trumpet) and Amariah Murillo (flute) were the soloists.

Morenci has a 42-12 (252-72) average score per game or 30-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), and 46-7 over Bisbee (Oct. 1). The lone loss was 46-7 to Eagar Round Valley (Sept. 3).

The Wildcats have a current 9-game win streak, are 10-3 during the 21st Century averaging a 36-23 (464-293) score per game or 13-point margin against the Yellow Jackets since 2005.

Other San Pedro Region contests are No. 9 Benson (3-2, 6.1934, 0-1) at No. 19 Bisbee (3-3, minus 2.5692, 0-1) and No. 7 Willcox (6-0, 8.2362, 1-0) at No. 5 Pima (4-2, 8.8649, 1-0). Benson is averaging a 34-11 (168-55) score per game or 23-point margin, Bisbee a 32-23 (190-138) score per game or 9-point margin, Willcox a 46-6 (274-34) score per game, or 40-point margin, and Pima a 30-10 (181-58) score per game or 40-point margin.

Last week in San Pedro Region pairings, Pima defeated Benson 14-7 in Benson on Sept. 30, plus Morenci and Willcox defeated Bisbee 46-7 in Lawson Stadium and Tombstone 53-14 in Tombstone, respectively, on Oct. 1.

Morenci’s non-region opponents went 3-2. Maricopa Sequoia Pathway (3-3) defeated Tucson Catalina (1-5) 62-0, Eagar Round Valley (6-0) defeated Payson (4-2) 19-7, Globe (0-6) fell 58-6 to Gilbert Christian (4-2), Phoenix Madison Highland (1-5) fell 62-0 to Scottsdale Prep (5-0), and Saint Johns (3-3) defeated Teec Nos Pos Red Mesa (1-1) 49-8.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Sophomore Michael Casillas stops Bisbee freshman quarterback Sebastian Lopez. Casillas notched a team-high 13 total tackles with eight solo while Lopez completed 6-10 passes for 42 yards and averaged 14.8 (5-74) yards per carry. He scored the Pumas’ lone touchdown on a 9-yard run.

Through six weeks of the regular season, Morenci’s 2021 opponents are a combined 32-25 overall. Maricopa Sequoia Pathway is 4-2, Eagar Round Valley 6-0, Globe 0-5, Phoenix Madison Highland 1-5, Saint Johns 3-3, Bisbee 3-3, Tombstone (Oct. 8) 2-3, Benson (Oct. 15) 3-2, Willcox (Oct. 22) 6-0, and Pima (Oct. 29) 4-2.

The six San Pedro Region members are a combined 23-11 overall. The other 38 teams, the five in the Agua Fria Region have a combined overall record of 14-14, the five in the Gila Region 16-14, the four in the Little Colorado Region 12-9, the six in the Salt Region 12-20, the five in the Verde Region 11-15, the five in the Rillito Region 11-17, the five in the Hassayampa Region 9-17, and the 3-team San Juan Region 2-7.

This week, Sequoia Pathway hosts Tanque Verde in Rillito Region play, Round Valley is at Show Low in 3A East Region play, Globe is at Gilbert San Tan Charter in Salt Region play, Madison Highland hosts Valley Lutheran in Verde Region play, and Saint Johns hosts Sanders Valley in Little Colorado Region play.

Last week, Sequoia Pathway defeated Catalina 62-0 in Rillito Region play, Round Valley defeated Payson 19-6 in 3A East Region play, Gilbert Christian defeated Globe 58-6 in Salt Region play, Scottsdale Prep defeated Madison Highland 62-0 in Verde Region play, and Saint Johns defeated Teec Nos Pos Red Mesa 49-8.

Week two of 2A statewide rankings for 42 teams on Oct. 5 has three remaining the same, eight moving up, three dropping down, two dropping out, and two replacing the dropouts in the Top 16.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Senior Brendon Enriquez, sophomore Andrew Chavez, and senior Jericho Sanchez form a wall, stopping running back Diego Chavez. The Bisbee junior averaged 5.3 (27-142) yards per carry.

The four San Pedro Region members, Morenci moved up from No. 5 to No. 4, Pima moved up from No. 8 to No. 5, Willcox stayed at No. 7, and Benson dropped from No. 3 to No. 9. The other two members, Bisbee stayed at No. 19 and Tombstone dropped from No. 24 to No. 25.

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

Parker (5-0 overall, 18.5082 rating, 1-0 Agua Fria Region) stayed at No. 1, Arizona Lutheran (5-1, 11.6637, 0-1 Gila Region) stayed at No. 2, Holbrook (5-1, 11.0102, 1-0 Little Colorado Region) move up from No. 6 to No. 3, Gilbert Christian (4-2, 8.6587, 1-0 Salt Region) moved down from No. 4 to No. 6, Scottsdale Prep (5-0, 6.8474, 1-0 Verde Region) moved up from No. 9 to No. 8, Camp Verde (5-1, 5.7916, 1-0 Agua Fria Region) moved up from No. 11 to No. 10, Chandler Prep (4-2, 4.5425, 1-0 Gila Region), moved down from No. 10 to No. 11, Saint Johns (3-3, 2.8466, 0-0 Little Colorado Region) moved up from No. 17 to No. 12, Scottsdale Christian (3-2, 2.2902, 0-0 Verde Region) moved up from No. 14 to No. 13, Miami (3-2, 1.9510, 1-0 Salt Region up) moved up from No. 15 to No. 14, Tanque Verde (4-2, 1.7908, 0-0 Rillito Region up) moved up from No. 16 to No. 15, and Antelope (4-2, 1.6405, 1-0) moved up from No. 18 to No. 16.

The teams dropping out were Sequoia Pathway (4-2, 1.2414, 1-0 Rillito Region) from No. 13 to No. 17 and Whiteriver Alchesay (3-2, 0.9624, 0-1 Little Colorado Region) from No. 12 to No. 18.

Wildcats – 46, Pumas – 7

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Tristen Sanchez knifes between Bisbee defenders David Chapman (14) and Sebastian Lopez (3) en route to a touchdown. The Morenci sophomore scored on two of three pass receptions.

Morenci scored thrice each on the ground and through the air, along with once on special teams while Bisbee had a lone score. The teams each totaled 11 possessions.

The visitors won the coin toss, elected to receive, and drove 80 yards in six plays using 2:12 for the initial touchdown. Freshman quarterback Sebastian Lopez capped the drive with a 9-yard run and senior Camden Miller added the conversion kick.

Bisbee’s advantage was short-lived as the Wildcats returned the ensuing kick 95 yards 13 seconds later. Junior Derek Saenz covered the distance and sophomore Albert Cobos added his first of two conversion kicks to tie the score with 2:25 elapsed in the game.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Tony Roybal leaves a Bisbee defender in his wake after catching a pass and taking it 40 yards to pay dirt. The Morenci senior capped the Wildcats’ scoring for the evening.

The visitors had five additional possessions in the first half, resulting in punts twice, a fumble, a blocked punt, and taking a knee to run down the clock. The punts were on 4th-and-5, 4th-and-6, and 4th-and-18, and the fumble on 3rd-and-9. Bisbee snapped a combined 19 offensive plays during the four possessions, netting three yards. 

Morenci scored on two of its next four first-half possessions, covering 65 yards in six plays and 50 yards in two plays. Junior Patrick Chavez ran in from 15 yards out and Cobos added the conversion kick. Morenci led 14-7 with 1:05 left in the first quarter. Sophomore Michael Casillas ran 36 yards and A Saenz to junior Joseph Seballos conversion pass gave the Wildcats a 22-7 advantage with 2:12 left in the first half.

The other two possessions ended on punts, on 4th-and-28 after losing 18 yards in four plays, and on 4th-and-17 after losing seven yards in three plays.

Morenci received the second-half kick and marched 47 yards in six plays plus a 5-yard penalty. Casillas ran five yards to put the Wildcats up 28-7 with 3:05 elapsed in the third quarter. None of the second-half conversion attempts succeeded.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Senior Demitri Briggs gets past Bisbee freshman defender Bryceton Meters (30) during a second-half run.

The Wildcats scored thrice more through the air, with receptions that went for 10-, 36-, and 40-yard touchdowns. They capped drives of 52 yards in four plays, 83 yards in six plays, and 40 yards in one play. Junior quarterback Daylen Johnson connected with sophomore Tristen Sanchez for the first two TDs and with senior Tony Roybal for the third TD.

Morenci’s other two possessions resulted in a gain of seven yards after three plays and a punt on 4th-and-3 and running out of time after a fumble on 3rd-and-15.

Bisbee’s five possessions ended in punts thrice, on 4th-and-37 after three plays losing 27 yards, on 4th-and-7 after three plays gaining 13 yards, and on 4th-and-4 after three plays gaining six yards; by failing to gain a first down on 4th-and-16 after 12 plays gaining 43 yards; and on a fumble on the kickoff.

On the evening, Morenci gained 390 offensive yards, 269 on 26 carries, and 121 on 5-9 passes compared with 280 yards, 238 on 36 carries, and 42 on 6-10 passes by Bisbee.

Johnson averaged 20.0 (2-40) yards per carry, Casillas 11.1 (14-156) yards, Patrick Chavez 8.0 (8-64) yards, and senior Demitri Briggs 2.3 (4-9) yards. Sanchez averaged 18.3 (3-55) yards per catch, Roybal 1-40, and junior Gavin Baca 1-36. Johnson completed 5-9 passes for 121 yards with no interceptions.

Defensively, 16 different Wildcats notched at least one tackle. Casillas totaled 13 tackles (8 solo, 5 assisted), senior Kaden Summer 12 (8 solo, 4 assisted), senior Shawn Hudman 10 (5 solo, 5 assisted), senior Brendon Enriquez nine (6 solo, 3 assisted), Tristen Sanchez eight (6 solo, 2 assisted), and senior Jericho Sanchez (2 solo, 2 assisted), Saenz (4 solo), sophomore Andrew Chavez (2 solo, 2 assisted), and senior Richard Trott III (1 solo, 3 assisted) four apiece.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Head official Duane DeSpain shows team captains the coin before the toss. Bisbee junior Diego Chavez (4) made the call. The visitors received the kickoff and drove 80 yards for the initial score.

Andrew Chavez, Seballos, and Tristen Sanchez each recovered a fumble; Chavez and Summer caused a fumble; Summer and Patrick Chavez both deflected a pass, and Saenz blocked a punt.

For Bisbee, Lopez averaged 14.8 (5-74) yards per carry, senior Geoffrey Gribble 6.3 (3-19) yards, Chavez 5.3 (27-142) yards, and freshman Bryceton Meyers 3.0 (1-3) yards; Gribble averaged 10.5 (2-21) yards per catch, Chavez 6.0 (1-6) yards, and sophomore David Chapman, 5.7 (3-17) yards; and Lopez completed 6-10 passes for 42 yards with no interceptions.

Defensively, Chavez totaled 12 tackles (9 solo, 3 assisted), senior E.J. Hernandez eight (5 solo, 3 assisted), Meyers and freshman Michael Coronado seven apiece (4 solo, 3 assisted), Lopez six (4 solo, 2 assisted), and both seniors Christopher Contreras (4 solo, 1 assisted) and Edward Holly (3 solo, 2 assisted) five each.

Sophomore Jesse Larsen recovered a fumble and both Lopez and Gribble deflected a pass.

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