Wildcats open with road win over Santa Rita Eagles; next welcome Bobcats to Lawson Stadium

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Numerous offside penalties were assessed on the Eagles during the game.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

MORENCI – The Joseph Garcia-coached Morenci Wildcats host the Benson Bobcats on Friday, Sept. 6. Benson topped San Manuel 54-6 and Morenci shutout Tucson Santa Rita 42-0, Aug. 30. The two unbeaten teams meet for a non-region contest in Lawson Stadium at 7 p.m.

In the previous 37 seasons, Morenci has posted 68 shutouts and been blanked 33 times. The Wildcats are 120-71 (.628) at home, 225-164 (.578) overall, 108-88 (.551) in the region, 26-4 (.867) in the section, 17-21 (.447) at state, and averaged a score per game of 46 – 34 (9,031 – 6,597) or a margin of 12 points since switching to the 2A (Class B) enrollment class during the 1982 season.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Sideline official Glenn Dobbins raises his hand to signify Morenci senior captains Angel Arrellin (11), Zachary Esparza (51), Omar Ortega (50), and Brandon Blair (1) are ready for the coin flip at mid-field. The Wildcats won the flip, deferred to the second half, and went three-and-out in their initial possession. Morenci was outgained by 12 yards (14-2) in the opening quarter. However, a 60-yard Arrellin punt return enabled Morenci to lead 7-0 with 2:57 elapsed, en route to a 42-0 non-region win over Tucson Santa Rita on Aug. 30.

The Wildcats are 9-5 (.643) at home, 18-14 (.563) overall, 10-11 (.476) in the region, 3-1 (.750) in the section, 0-1 at state, and averaged a score per game of 20 – 19 (642 – 622) or a margin of one point versus the Bobcats in the same span.

Last season, Morenci scored 21 first-half points and shutout the Bobcats for three quarters in Benson. The No. 9 Bobcats finished as the San Pedro Region champion (4-0) and fell 50-6 to top-ranked Thatcher.

Morenci – 42, Santa Rita – 0

Following a weather cancellation of the season opener with Thatcher on Aug. 23, Morenci opened the Joseph Garcia Era with a 42-0 shutout of the host Tucson Santa Rita Eagles on Aug. 30. The entire traveling party had a hand in the non-region win. Scoring was provided by the special, offensive, and defensive teams. Additionally, the defensive crew kept the opponent from scoring.

“Everyone played,” the first-year Morenci head coach said. He admitted to playing favorites. “I play those that work hard. Those are my favorite players.”

Morenci totaled 34 snaps in seven possessions, scoring four times, punting once, fumbling once, and running out of time on the other. The Wildcats ended with 150 return yards with two touchdowns, and 210 offensive yards, 165 on 21 rushes with two touchdowns and 45 on 3-6 passes with two touchdowns.

Santa Rita gained 66 unofficial yards during 40 snaps in nine possessions, punting four times, turning the ball over on downs thrice, running out of time once, and being intercepted once.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Senior quarterback Brandon Blair rolled out on 3rd-and-10 to pick the first down, but a motion penalty negated the gain. He connected with freshman wide receiver Derek Saenz for a 40-yard touchdown on the ensuing play, giving Morenci a 19-0 advantage with 48 seconds left in the half. Senior Matthew Harrington added a conversion run for a 21-0 halftime score.

Morenci won the coin flip, deferred to the second half, and went three-and-out on its initial offensive series, totaling five snaps in the opening quarter. The Eagles had three possessions and totaled 14 snaps, outgaining their guests by 12 yards (14-2).

It matters not how one starts, but rather how one finishes.

“They’re a good team,” Garcia said. “They sustained their blocks.”

However, the scoreboard favored the guests. Senior Angel Arrellin returned a punt 55 yards for a score and junior Joseph Hernandez added the conversion kick. Morenci led 7-0 with 2:57 elapsed in the game.

“We made a couple of fundamental blocking adjustments,” Garcia said.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci junior linebacker PaulDaniel Moreno wrestles down Santa Rita freshman wide receiver Andres Gomez for a 5-yard loss on 2nd-and-20. The Eagles threw a pair of incomplete passes to turn over the ball on downs after gaining 26 yards on their second possession.

The Wildcats followed with sustained drives of 75 yards in eight plays, 80 yards in seven plays, and 66 yards in five plays to score on each of their next three possessions. The drives were twice capped by senior quarterback Brandon Blair aerials and a Carlos Bray run. Blair connected with senior tight end Isaiah Nofchissey for 4 yards and freshman wide receiver Derek Saenz for 40 yards. Senior running back Bray scampered 27 yards. Hernandez converted on one of two kicks and senior Matthew Harrington bulled his way in for two points.

One score resulted in the remaining three possessions. Blair ran in from 5 yards out and junior PaulDaniel Moreno added a conversion run. The other two possessions ended in a fumble and time running out.

The final score came via a 50-yard Bray interception return. The conversion attempt failed.

Bray averaged 12.0 (4-48) yards per carry, Harrington 10.3 (7-72) yards, freshman Gabriel Baca 7.0 (1-7) yards, Blair 5.0 (1-5) yards, junior Lance Morey 4.8 (5-24) yards, sophomore Kaden Summer and freshman Dalen Johnson both 4.0 (1-4) yards, and freshman Dillen Aker 1.0 (1-1) yards.

Blair completed 3-6 passes for 45 yards with no interceptions. Saenz averaged 40 (1-40) yards and Nofchissey 2.5 (2-5) yards per catch.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Second-year Santa Rita head coach Richard Sanchez jokes with referee Paul Stevens before the start of the game. Sanchez was ejected with 2:48 elapsed in the second quarter with the Eagles trailing 7-0.

Defensively, 18 different Wildcats made tackles with a dozen having at least one apiece. Moreno netted nine stops (six solo, three assisted), Bray seven (five solo, two assisted), Arrellin and junior Morey four (three solo, one assisted) apiece, Harrington four (two solo, two assisted), and junior Clayton Basham three (two solo, one assisted).

Senior Omar Ortega recorded a quarterback sack and both Arrellin and Morey deflected a pass.

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