Wildcats keep Bulldogs out of own end zone

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Patrick Chavez (13) finds running room behind junior blocker Joseph Seballos (12). The Morenci senior fullback scored thrice against Safford, from 52 yards on 3rd-and-10, six yards on 1st-and-goal, and 10 yards on 1st-and-10. He averaged 10.8 (14-151) yards per carry. Morenci (3-0) does not have a game scheduled this week, hosting Willcox on Sept. 16.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

SAFFORD – The Dawg Pound student section was silenced by the white-clad boys on Sept. 2. Morenci spoiled the home opener of the Safford Bulldogs, shutting them out by a Mercy-Ruled 44-0 score.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Colin Gunnett (41) holds on to bring down Morenci senior Derek Saenz. The Safford sophomore was one of three Bulldogs totaling six tackles. He had five solo and one assisted.

The teams had not met since the 2014 season and Safford led the series 35-11-1 (.745) since 1944. The largest lopsided result occurred on Oct. 4, 1944, with the Bulldogs posting a 75-0 shutout in Safford. The teams met 23 times in each others’ facilities from 1945-2014. The Bulldogs posted 12 shutouts compared to three by the Wildcats. Safford averages a score of 19-10 (869-456) per game or a 9-point margin during those 46 pairings.  

Safford has played its home games on what is now known as Herman B.B. Andrews Track and Field since the 1987 season. The Bulldogs had won seven consecutive home games versus Morenci since 1978, beginning after a 0-7 loss to eventual state champion Morenci in Baker Stadium in 1976 (Sept. 24).

Thus far in 2022, Morenci’s offensive line has opened up lanes for the Wildcats to total 1,140 offensive yards, 1,000 on 118 carries, and 140 on seven receptions with averages of 8.5 yards per carry and 20 yards per catch. The Wildcats are averaging a 39-2 (118-6) score per game or a 37-point margin, with wins of 30-6 over Scottsdale Christian (Aug. 19), 44-0 over Tucson Tanque Verde, and 44-0 over Safford (Sept. 2). 

“We have a long ways to go,” fourth-year Morenci head coach Joseph Garcia said.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Marcus Lucero (11) intercepted a pass intended for Safford junior Damian Rios (22) and returned it 37 yards.

The Wildcats are idle (Sept. 9), host Willcox (Sept. 16), visit Tombstone (Sept. 23), host Globe (Sept. 30), visit Gilbert San Tan Charter (Oct. 7), Miami (Oct. 14), and San Carlos (Oct. 21) prior to the regular season home finale with Pima (Oct. 28).

On Friday (Sept. 9), 2-1 Scottsdale Christian is idle, 1-1 Tanque Verde visits 1-1 Pima (Oct. 28), 1-2 Safford hosts 1-0 Tucson Pueblo, 2-0 Willcox (Sept. 16) hosts 2-0 Maricopa Sequoia Pathway, 0-2 Tombstone (Sept. 23) hosts 1-1 Globe (Sept. 30), 1-2 Miami (Oct. 14) visits 2-0 Gilbert Arete Prep, 0-1 San Carlos (Oct. 21) visits 1-2 Highland Prep.

A Saturday (Sept. 10) pairing has 2-1 San Tan Charter (Oct. 7) hosting 0-2 Avondale Saint John Paul II Catholic.

Week 2 pairings for Morenci’s 2022 opponents resulted in wins of 32-12 for 2-1 Scottsdale Christian over 1-2 Fountain Hills, 49-0 for 1-1 Tanque Verde over 0-2 Phoenix Valley Lutheran, 56-25 for 2-0 Willcox (Sept. 16) over 1-1 Benson, 32-14 for 2-0 Maricopa Sequoia Pathway over 0-2 Tombstone (Sept. 23), 32-6 for 1-1 Queen Creek American Leadership – Ironwood over 1-1 Globe (Sept. 30), 56-33 for 2-1 Queen Creek San Tan Foothills over 2-1 Gilbert San Tan Charter (Oct. 7), 24-8 for 2-1 Payson over 1-2 Miami (Oct. 14),  0-1 San Carlos (Oct. 21) was idle, and 19-0 for 3-0 Thatcher over 1-1 Pima (Oct. 28).

Week 1 wins were 25-8 for Scottsdale Christian over Laveen Heritage, 41-3 for  Pima over Safford, 39-14 for Willcox over Gilbert Christian, 40-0 for Globe over Tucson Santa Rita, 40-20 for San Tan Charter over Phoenix Veritas Prep, 27-19 for Miami over Chandler Prep, and 55-8 for Phoenix NFL Yet over San Carlos. Tombstone was idle.

Week Zero results had Safford 27-20 over Phoenix Christian, Tombstone falling 16-20 to Benson, and San Tan Charter 46-21 over Miami. Globe, Pima, San Carlos, and Willcox were idle.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Rick Funari (10) latches on to Safford workhorse Damian Rios (22) for a stop. The Morenci senior totaled seven tackles (4 solo, 3 assisted), sacked the quarterback, and deflected a pass.

Morenci – 44, Safford – 0

The visiting Wildcats led 6-0 following the opening quarter, 22-0 at halftime, and 35-0 heading into the fourth quarter. Morenci scored on six of 11 possessions. The Wildcats crossed the goal line on their second, fourth, and fifth of six in the first half as well as on their first, second, and fifth of five in the second half.

Morenci scored 42 points on offense, covering 65 yards in four plays, 66 yards in two plays, 52 yards in five plays, 60 yards in four plays, 30 yards in two plays, and 36 yards in five plays. The Wildcats also added a safety for two points on defense.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Tristen Sanchez (82) sheds a Safford defender en route to pay dirt. The Morenci junior scored from 59 yards out with 7:13 left in the first quarter, averaging 36.0 (2-72) yards per catch.

Senior Patrick Chavez sprinted through the hole initially opened by senior tackle Gabriel Hernandez and junior guard Austyn Nelson on 3rd-and-10, blew past a safety, and crossed the goal line after a 52-yard run. A bad center snap foiled the point after touchdown attempt. Morenci led 6-0 with 3:50 left in the opening quarter.

Junior Tristen Sanchez caught a pass on 2nd-and-1 and raced along the sideline into the end zone from 59 yards out. Junior Michael Casillas added the conversion run as Morenci led 14-0 midway through the second quarter.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Safford senior Tanner Emery (72) was able to block Morenci’s closing-minute 24-yard field goal attempt.

Chavez capped a 5-play, 52-yard drive with a 6-yard run on 1st-and-goal. Sanchez added the conversion run for a 22-0 Morenci advantage with 3:53 left in the half.

Senior Derek Saenz sprinted through the opening made by Hernandez and Nelson to cover 45 yards untouched for a TD on 2nd-and-15. The conversion pass was unsuccessful. Morenci led 28-0 with 2:22 elapsed in the second half.

Casillas blew in from six yards out, to score in two plays following a pass interference penalty on 2nd-and-6. Nelson added the conversion kick for a 35-0 advantage with 6:49 elapsed in the third quarter.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Chavez brothers, Andrew (54) and Patrick (13) stop Safford junior Bernardo Carillo (23) for a short gain. Andrew totaled seven tackles (6 solo, 1 assisted) and Patrick eight (5 solo, 3 assisted).

Sanchez added a safety for a 37-0 advantage with 4:12 left in the fourth quarter.

The final points were contributed in the closing 1:40. Chavez capped a 36-yard drive with a 10-yard run on 1st-and-10. Nelson added the conversion kick.

Safford received the opening kickoff yet was kept out of the end zone during six first-half possessions as well as in five during the second half.

The Bulldogs gained 55 of 80 yards but turned the ball over on downs after getting nine yards on 4th-and-11, punted on 4th-and-5 after netting 54 yards in five plays, punted on 4th-and-1 after getting nine yards, threw an incomplete pass on 4th-and-13 after gaining 46 yards in 12 plays, punted on 4th-and-16 after getting nine yards on three plays, and gained 55 yards before being stopped eight yards short of the first down on 4th-and-10.

In the second half, the Bulldogs were intercepted on 4th-and-10 after gaining 24 yards in eight previous plays, punted on 4th-and-11 after losing a yard in three plays, intercepted on 3rd-and-5 after gaining five yards in two plays, yielded a safety after losing 21 yards in two plays, and gained 14 yards on two plays before running out of time in the closing 47 seconds.

The Wildcats lost five yards on a motion penalty and never regained it, punting on 4th-and-16 to end their initial possession; a third possession resulted in getting five yards and being stopped on 4th-and-7, and a knee was taken on a fourth possession to wind down the clock.

Morenci fumbled on 2nd-and-10 after gaining 10 yards during its third second-half possession and drove 52 yards in 13 plays before a 24-yard field goal attempt was blocked.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Safford junior Chris Shatto (10) found little running room against Morenci, totaling two yards on three carries and a yard on a reception.

For the evening, Morenci earned 13 first downs while gaining 369 yards, 297 yards on 37 carries, and 72 with two pass receptions. Return yards numbered 140.

Saenz averaged 16.8 (4-47) yards per carry, sophomore Marcus Lucero 11.0 (1-11) yards, senior Patrick Chavez 10.8 (14-151) yards, senior Daylen Johnson 8.5 (2-17) yards, and Casillas 4.4 (16-71) yards.

Johnson completed 2-5 passes for 72 yards with no interception. Sanchez averaged 36.0 (2-72) yards per catch.

Chavez rushed for three touchdowns, Sanchez caught a pass for a TD and added a conversion run plus a safety, Casillas rushed for a TD and added a conversion run, Saenz rushed for a TD, and junior Austyn Nelson added two conversion kicks.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Gavin Baca (5) is in pursuit of quarterback Carlos Arbizo. The Safford sophomore gained 19 yards on two carries, six yards on two receptions, and completed 1-4 passes for 12 yards with an interception.

Defensively, 17 Wildcats totaled 84 tackles (53 solo, 31 assisted). A week earlier against Scottsdale Christian, 12 Wildcats accounted for 35 tackles (22 solo, 13 assisted).

Junior Donovan Vozza was the leading stopper with nine tackles (5 solo, 4 assisted), followed by Chavez (5 solo, 3 assisted), Lucero (3 solo, 5 assisted) and Sanchez (6 solo, 2 assisted) with eight apiece, junior Andrew Chavez (6 solo, 1 assisted) and senior Rick Funari (4 solo, 3 assisted) both with seven, Baca (4 solo, 2 assisted), Nelson (2 solo, 4 assisted), junior John Provencio (5 solo, 1 assisted), and Saenz (5 solo, 1 assisted) with six apiece, and Johnson with five (3 solo, 2 assisted).

Saenz made four pass deflections, and Funari, Lucero, and Provencio one apiece; Sanchez had two sacks and Funari one, and both Saenz and Lucero hauled down an interception apiece.

Safford had 10 first downs while totaling 233 offensive yards, 87 on 26 carries and 146 on 15 catches.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Derek Saenz cuts back in front of umpire Brian Avila. The Morenci senior scored untouched from 45 yards on 2nd-and-15, averaging 11.8 (4-47) yards per carry against Safford.

Sophomore Carlos Arbizo averaged 9.5 (2-19) yards per carry, junior Bernardo Carillo 4.0 (3-12) yards, junior Damian “Monster” Rios 3.4 (13-44) yards, junior Jojo Ruelas 2.0 (5-10) yards, and junior Chris Shatto 0.7 (3-2) yards.

Ruelas completed 13-28 passes for 135 yards with one interception while Arbizo went 1-4 for 12 yards with an interception. Sophomore Cole Yentsch averaged 15.0 (1-15) yards per catch, Rios 13.3 (4-54) yards, junior Michael Chavez 12.0 (2-24) yards, junior Isaiah Alvarado 8.5 (4-34) yards, Arvizo 3.0 (2-6) yards, and Shatto 1.0 (1-1) yards.

Defensively, the Bulldogs totaled 48 tackles, 37 solo, and 11 assisted. Senior Tanner Emery (2 solo, 4 assisted) along with sophomores Colin Gunnett (5 solo, 1 assisted) and Zayden Sanchez (3 solo, 3 assisted) each totaled six, and sophomore Micah Chaplin five (5 solo).