Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: The Morenci Wildcats went on the road and were victorious over the Santa Cruz Valley Dust Devils, 42-12.
By Raymundo Frasquillo
ELOY – Morenci’s defense kept the Santa Cruz Valley Union Dust Devils from scoring in the second half. The offensive unit added 26 points and the Wildcats left Townsend Field and Pinal County with a 42-12 non-region win Friday, Sept. 14. The David Gallegos-coached Wildcats led 24-12 after three periods, 16-12 at halftime, and 8-0 following the opening period.
The difference in the game was “our intensity level.” Gallegos said.
Evident of that was the two touchdowns scored by reserve running backs in the second half, and an early fourth quarter quarterback sack for a 15-yard loss on 4th-and-10, following three successive incomplete passes.
Seniors, linebacker Isaac Pacheco and noseguard Christian Alva got to the quarterback unimpeded. No one picked them up as they zipped through the Santa Cruz offensive line.
Prior to kickoff, the Wildcats were 1-4 with a 9-29 (46-146) average score per game or a 20-point deficit during five previous (1968-79) pairings with the Dust Devils. But, Morenci did not line up against history. A few of those players are now in the school’s Hall of Fame, displayed on a wall in the cafeteria, and were a non-factor in the outcome of the game. Morenci also did not face last season’s state runner-up.
However, the Wildcats’ time of possession was less than a third of the hosts in the first half. Morenci was outgained by 57 yards, 101 yards on 15 snaps compared to 158 yards on 35 snaps for Santa Cruz.
For the game, the Dust Devils totaled 16 first downs and gained 280 yards on 64 snaps to Morenci’s 12 and 271 yards on 35 snaps.
“Our (season-long) goal was not to beat Santa Cruz at Santa Cruz,” Gallegos told the Wildcats (4-1) after the game. The goal is and has been to improve with each outing and end as the best team in the state. The method remains one play and one game at a time.”
The triple-digit temperature during pre-game drills appeared likely to be a factor in the game, but it proved not as an unending supply of water aided hydration.
Morenci lit up the scoreboard early after kicking to the hosts and recovering a fumbled ball. Senior Isaac Pacheco scored his first of three touchdowns three plays later, or a minute after gaining control of the ball. His scoring contributions were all on first down runs.
The Wildcats took an early 8-0 lead, but the Dust Devils countered with a Joel Salazar to Orlando Davis Jr. pass, after punting on 4th-and-25 and Morenci losing seven yards on 4th-and-1.
Santa Cruz marched 75 yards in 16 plays using 7:41. The Dust Devils gained 41 yards on 13 runs and 34 on three consecutive passes.
Morenci scored nine seconds later as Pacheco added his second TD.
Santa Cruz drove 66 yards in nine plays using 4:23. Junior Evan Ogle bulled in from four yards out with 2:34 left in the half.
Morenci went three plays and punted after gaining two yards and the hosts threw an incomplete pass on its eighth play following a 29-yard gain. Morenci got nine yards after the halftime buzzer sounded.
The difference in the 16-12 halftime score was Morenci completed conversion attempts and Santa Cruz did not. Juniors Matthew Harrington and Brandon Blair crossed the goal line while the Dust Devils were stopped and a bad snap negated the second try.
Morenci covered 66 yards in 11 plays using 6:19. Reserve running back Christopher Deck went in from five yards out. A Mark Roybal to Harrington conversion pass doubled the margin, 24-12, with 5:38 elapsed in the third period.
Santa Cruz netted 60 yards in 10 plays but gained six yards on 4th-and-16, 27 yards in eight plays and was sacked on 4th-and-10, 20 yards in five plays but was intercepted, and 15 yards in six plays but ran out of time.
Meanwhile, Morenci scored thrice, on a Pacheco 90-yard run (30-12), in three plays capped by a Mark Roybal 20-yard run (36-12), and in five plays capped by reserve running back Carlos Bray’s 5-yard effort (42-12). Each of the conversion kicks failed.
Morenci (4-1 overall, 0-1 Black Region) heads to Cochise County for a non-region pairing with the once-beaten Bisbee Pumas (3-1), while Santa Cruz (1-3, 0-0 Agua Fria Region) visits Thatcher (5-0, 1-0) on Friday, Sept. 21.