Wildcats host Scottsdale Christian in season opener at 5 p.m. Friday

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci lines up against Thatcher for a scrimmage on John Mickelson Field on Aug. 12. Morenci welcomes Scottsdale Christian to Lawson Stadium and Thatcher meets Round Valley in Eagar on Friday, Aug. 19. The 2022 season opener in Greenlee County was changed to a 5 p.m. start because of impending inclement weather.

Duncan, Fort Thomas, Safford, and Thatcher travel for their 2022 openers

By Raymundo Frasquillo

MORENCI – An inclement weather forecast prompted a two-hour early kickoff for the 2022 season opener against Scottsdale Christian Friday. It will be the initial meeting of the two programs.

Last season, the Wildcats finished 11-3 (.786) overall and 4-1 (.800) for 2nd in the region, averaging a 33-15 (467-214) score per game or an 18-point margin. The No. 4 Wildcats ended as state runners-up to the No.2 Phoenix Arizona Lutheran Coyotes with a 14-28 loss.

Scottsdale Christian ended 5-4 (.556) overall and 2-0 (1.000) for first in the region, averaging a 31-23 (279-203) score per game or an 8-point margin. The No. 12 Eagles fell 27-42 to No. 5 Gilbert Christian during the first round of the state playoffs. Morenci eliminated Gilbert Christian 35-23 in the quarterfinals.

The Wildcats are 22-12 (.647) overall, 9-5 (.643) region, and 4-3 (.571) in the post-season during three seasons under Joseph Garcia. Morenci has averaged a 27-15 (930-499) score per game or an 8-point margin during his tenure.

In the same 3-year span, the Eagles are 15-11 (.577) overall, 7-3 (.700) region, and 1-2 (.333) in post-season play under Nate Holtz, averaging a 31-23 (850-609) score per game or an 8-point margin.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci senior quarterback Daylen Johnson releases a pass ahead of an onrushing Eagle.

Since switching to a 2A school, Morenci is 203-160 (.559) during 40 seasons from 1982-2021, averaging a 22-16 (8,067-5,943) score per game or a 6-point margin while facing 57 different opponents.

The Wildcats host Tucson Tanque Verde (Aug. 26), visit Safford (Sept. 2), host Willcox (Sept. 16), visit Tombstone (Sept. 23), host Globe (Sept. 30), visit San Tan Charter (Oct. 7), Miami (Oct. 14), and San Carlos (Oct. 21) prior to the regular season home finale with Pima (Oct. 28).

Scottsdale Christian visits Laveen Heritage (Aug. 26), hosts Fountain Hills (Sept. 2) and Pima (Sept. 16), visits Glendale Prep (Sept. 22), hosts Phoenix Veritas Prep (Sept. 30) and Phoenix Madison Highland Prep (Oct. 7), visits Phoenix Valley Lutheran (Oct. 14), hosts Scottsdale Coronado (Oct. 21), and visits Scottsdale Prep (Oct. 28).

Duncan at Lordsburg (NM)

Duncan opens in the Land of Enchantment against Lordsburg (Aug. 19).

The schools met for the season opener during the final seven seasons (1996-2002) before Duncan switched to the 8-man format. Lordsburg has a 6-1 record and average score per game of 13-8 (90-57) or a 5-point margin for those seven games.

Last season, the Wildkats went 4-3 (.571) overall, 3-3 (.500) for 3rd of seven in the region, and averaged a 26-30 (183-283) score per game or a 4-point deficit. The Mavericks finished 5-4 (.556) overall, 1-2 (.333) in the district, averaging a score of 32-20 (290-182) per game or a 12-point margin. Tularosa handed Lordsburg an 8-28 state meet first-round loss.

Duncan senior Logan Basteen snaps the ball to junior quarterback Diego Montoya during a recent practice session. Sophomore Isaac Harris moves to provide protection as freshmen linemen Taygen Jensen (65) and Ky Coats (54) rush in. Duncan is on the road for its initial two games before hosting San Manuel on Sept. 2

Duncan is 79-78 (.503) overall, 50-41 (.549) region, 1-10 (.091) in state playoffs, 40-37 (.519) on Packer Field, and 14-4 (.778) for homecoming during 19 seasons (2003-21) of playing in the 8-man format.

Eric Bejarano (17-14 overall, 13-7 region, 0-2 state) is in his fifth season as head coach, with his teams averaging a 31-28 (955-880) score per game or a 3-point margin.

Dale Hooper (17-22 overall, 8-4 district, 0-4 state) is in his sixth season as the Mavericks’ head coach, the first in the 8-man format.

The Wildkats visit Fort Thomas (Aug. 26), host San Manuel (Sept. 2) and Saint David (Sept. 9), visit Sells Baboquivari (Sept. 23), host Kearny Ray (Sept. 30), visit Dishchii’bikoh (Oct. 7), and host Elfrida Valley Union (Oct. 14).

Lordsburg visits Albuquerque Menaul (Aug. 26), hosts Tatum (Sept. 2), visits Albuquerque Legacy (Sept. 9), hosts Melrose (Sept. 16) and Pine Hill (Sept. 23), visits Magdalena Alamo Navajo (Oct. 8), and hosts Magdalena (Oct. 14) and Las Cruces Mesilla Valley Christian (Oct. 21).

Fort Thomas at Sells Baboquivari

The Apaches open the season against Baboquivari in Sells (Aug. 19), before hosting Duncan (Aug. 26) and Scottsdale Cicero Prep (Sept. 2). Fort Thomas visits Dishchii’bikoh (Sept. 9), hosts Tempe Prep (Sept. 16), visits San Manuel (Sept. 23), hosts Valley Union (Sept. 30) and Saint David (Oct. 6), and visits Ray (Oct. 14).

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Duncan’s Isaac Harris looks the ball into his hands.

Last season, Fort Thomas finished 2-7 (.222) overall and 2-4 (.333) for 2nd of seven in the region, averaging a 25-35 (375-252) score per game or a 10-point deficit.

The Apaches went a combined 23-25 (.479) overall and 11-15 (.423) in the region during six seasons (2016-21) under Bracken Walker.

Erique Aguilar is in his initial season as the head coach.

Baboquivari visits Saint David (Aug. 26) and Glendale Desert Heights Prep (Sept. 2), hosts Valley Union (Sept. 9), visits Ray (Sept. 16), and hosts Duncan (Sept. 23), visits Mayer (Sept. 30) and San Manuel (Oct. 14).

Last season, the Warriors played only the six region games, going 2-4 (.333) while averaging a 28-31 (166-187) score per game or a 3-point deficit.

Safford at Phoenix Christian

Safford visits Phoenix Christian (Aug. 19).

The Bulldogs visit Pima (Aug. 26), host Morenci (Sept. 2), host Tucson Pueblo (Sept. 9) and host Thatcher (Sept. 16), visit Tucson Sabino (Sept. 23), host Tucson Palo Verde Magnet (Oct. 7) and Payson (Oct. 14), and visit Benson (Oct. 21) and Tucson Pusch Ridge Christian (Oct. 28).

Phoenix Christian visits Phoenix Shadow Mountain (Aug. 26), hosts Mohave Valley River Valley (Sept. 2), visits Gilbert Christian (Sept. 8), Chandler Valley Christian (Sept. 16), and Phoenix Arizona Lutheran (Sept. 23), and hosts Fountain Hills (Sept. 30), visits Benson (Oct. 14), and hosts Tempe (Oct. 21) and Payson (Oct. 28).

Duncan sophomore Isaac Harris runs to daylight as senior Jeremy Galvin, left, and freshman Taygen Jensen, right, close in.

Last season, the Bulldogs finished 6-5 overall, 1-3 in the region, averaging a 20-27 (215-292) score per game or a 7-point deficit. The No. 3 Chandler Valley Christian Eagles ended the No. 14 Bulldogs’ season with a 49-point state meet first-round shutout.

Phoenix Christian posted a 7-4 (.636) overall record and 5-0 (1.000) region mark, averaging a 26-28 (290-310) score per game or a 2-point deficit. The Cougars were shutout 0-57 by top-ranked Gilbert North American Leadership during the first round as an automatic qualifier.

Robert Park is in his second season as the Safford head coach.

Thatcher at Round Valley

Thatcher opens in Eagar against Round Valley (Aug. 19) before welcoming Mesa Eastmark (Aug. 26) and Pima (Sept. 2) to John Mickelson Stadium. The Eagles visit Safford (Sept. 16), host Tucson Pusch Ridge Christian (Sept. 23), visit Tucson Sahuaro (Sept. 30), host Benson (Oct. 7), visit Coolidge (Oct. 14), host Tucson Sabino (Oct. 21), and visit Tucson Palo Verde Magnet (Oct. 28) for the regular season finale.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Thatcher has a player go into motion before the ball is snapped against Morenci on Aug. 12.

Last season, the Eagles finished 8-4 (.666) overall and 3-1 (.750) for 2nd in the region, averaging a 33-21 (396-254) score per game or a 12-point margin. The No. 2 Snowflake Lobos ended the No. 10 Eagles’ season with a 13-44 state quarterfinal loss.

The Eagles are 13-8 (.619) overall, 6-2 (.750) region, and 2-2 (.500) in the post-season during two campaigns under Daniel Jones. Thatcher has averaged a 30-23 (637-487) score per game or a 7-point margin during the same span.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: The Eagles and Wildcats both enjoyed success in their previous meeting last month, executing offensive and defensive plays against each other.

Round Valley hosts Saint Johns (Sept. 2), visits Florence Poston Butte (Sept. 9), hosts Ganado (Sept. 15), visits Show Low (Sept. 23) and Kayenta Monument Valley (Sept. 30), hosts Fort defiance Window Rock (Oct. 7), visits Winslow (Oct. 14), and hosts Page (Oct. 21) and Lakeside Blue Ridge (Oct. 28).

Last season, Round Valley finished 10-2 (.833) overall and 3-1 (.750) for 2nd in the region, averaging a 39-21 (470-248) score per game or an 18-point margin. The No. 4 Yuma Catholic Shamrocks handed the No. 5 Elks a 13-68 quarterfinal loss.

The Elks are 16-5 (.762) overall, 6-2 (.750) in the region, and 1-2 in the playoffs during two 3A seasons. 

Thatcher went 47-8 (.855) overall from 2016-19 while going 14-1 and averaging a 40-14 (593-204) score per game in the post-season during its’ final four years as a 2A school. The Eagles ended 12-2 (2016), 13-1 (2017), 14-0 (2018), and 8-5 (2019) while finishing as a state champion thrice (2016-18). The lone loss was 0-28 to No. 3 Phoenix Christian as No. 7 during the 2019 semifinals.

Round Valley compiled a 47-7 (.870) overall record while going 12-3 and averaging a 37-14 (559-213) score per game in the post-season during the same 4-year span. The Elks ended 13-1 (2016), 12-1 (2017), 11-3 (2018), and 11-2 (2019) while finishing as a state champion in 2019 and twice runner-up to Thatcher (2016, 2018). The other loss was 21-24 to No. 4 Eloy Santa Cruz as the top-ranked team during the 2017 semifinals.

The two teams were region champions and top ranked in the state during those four seasons. Round Valley was the region champion and the state No. 1 team thrice, both in 2016, 2017, and 2019 while Thatcher was both region and state No. 1 in 2018. Each has three wins over the other, Round Valley in regular season region play and Thatcher two in the state finals and one in the regular season. Thatcher outscored Round Valley 68-40 as titlists during 2016 and 2018.

PIMA (Edd Hubbard Field)

Pima opens the season on Edd Hubbard Field a week later, hosting Safford (Aug. 26).

The Roughriders visit Thatcher (Sept. 2), host Tanque Verde (Sept. 9), visit Scottsdale Christian (Sept. 16) and Willcox (Sept. 23), host San Carlos (Sept. 30), visit Globe (Oct. 7), host San Tan Charter (Oct. 14) and Miami (Oct. 21), and visit Morenci (Oct. 28).

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Thatcher senior quarterback tries to escape the grasp of Morenci sophomore defender Marcus Lucero.

Last season, the Roughriders finished 7-4 (.636) overall, 3-1 (.750) for 3rd in the region, averaging a 34-14 (371-151) score per game or a 20-point margin. Arizona Lutheran ended the No. 7 Roughriders’ season with a 27-33 state meet quarterfinal loss.

Jim Hughes stepped down after two seasons and the Blue and Gold will be guided by first-year head coach Josh Wilkins.

Region Alignments

Safford and Thatcher are competing in the state’s 3A South Region along with Benson and Tucson schools Palo Verde Magnet, Pusch Ridge Christian, and Sabino. There are 38 teams in the conference spread through six regions.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci fourth-year head coach Joseph Garcia listens to a ruling by an official during the scrimmage in Thatcher.

Last season, the region included Sahuarita while Benson was in the 2A San Pedro Region, and Palo Verde Magnet did not field a team.

Morenci, Pima, Globe, Miami, Gilbert San Tan Charter, and San Carlos are in the 2A Salt Region. There are 47 teams in the conference dispersed through eight regions.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Cheerleaders, football players, and coaches were feted by a group of parents on the eve of the season opener with Scottsdale Christian. Senior cheerleader Gianna Chavez accepts some red chili enchiladas to her plate.

Last season, Morenci and Pima, along with Benson, Bisbee, Tombstone, and Willcox were in the 2A San Pedro Region. Globe, Miami, San Carlos, and San Tan Charter along with Gilbert Christian and Gilbert Arete Prep were in the 2A Salt Region.

Duncan, Fort Thomas, Elfrida Valley Union, Kearny Ray, San Manuel, and Saint David are in the 1A South Region. There are 24 teams in the conference mixed within four regions.

Last season, the region included Sells Baboquivari and Dishii’bikoh while Ray was in the East with Chandler Lincoln Prep, Cicero Prep, Superior, Tempe Prep, and Winkelman Hayden.

Lordsburg is in The Land of Enchantment’s  2A District 3.