Wildcats welcome Dust Devils to Lawson Stadium, slip past Cowboys

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci junior defender Lance Morey uses his belly to block the second quarter Willcox extra point attempt. The defensive play allowed the visitors to keep the advantage. Morenci scored a second time with 3:04 elapsed in the second half. Defensive stops on two Willcox fourth-quarter possessions, along with a 20-yard Morenci gain for a first down with 1:28 left, allowed the visitors to wind down the clock and win 14-6, Sept. 12.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

MORENCI – The Eloy Santa Cruz Dust Devils visit Lawson Stadium on Friday, Sept. 20. It is their initial visit to the facility. Two previous trips were “to the Hill,” was Nov. 22, 1968, for a 27-0 win and Nov. 6, 1970, for a 14-7 loss, both in region pairings.

Last season, the Wildcats prevailed 42-12 on Sept. 14 in Eloy.

Thus far, Santa Cruz (3-1 overall) has outscored opponents by an average score of 32-18 (128-74) per game or a margin of 14. The Dust Devils bring wins of 34-18 over Sahuarita (Aug. 23), 33-0 over Queen Creek San Tans Foothills (Aug. 30), and 48-8 over Kingman (Sept. 13), along with a loss of 13-48 to Eagar Round Valley (Sept. 6).

Morenci (2-1) has an average score of 21-18 (63-55) per game or a margin of three points. The Wildcats have wins of 42-0 over Tucson Santa Rita (Aug. 30) and 14-6 over Willcox (Sept. 12) plus a loss of 7-49 to Benson (Sept. 6).

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. Morenci has posted 68 shutouts and been blanked 33 times in the previous 37 seasons (1982-2018).

Since 1968, the Wildcats are 1-1 (.500) at home, 2-4 (.333) overall, 1-3 (.250) in the region, 0-1 at state, and averaged a score of 15 – 26 (88 – 158) per game or a deficit of 11 points to the Dust Devils.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci head coach Joseph Garcia observes the on-field action before calling the next offensive play.

Morenci – 14, Willcox – 6

“How are you going to respond?” asked Morenci head coach Joseph Garcia following 49 unanswered points yielded to Benson the prior week.

The Wildcats were focused during preparation, brought their intensity and kept it throughout the contest with Willcox. The outcome was decided during the fourth quarter. Morenci secured it during the final offensive possession.

It started with the scoreboard clock showing 11:24 left to play and the Wildcats on defense. Willcox was limited to three plays using 1:03 and netting three yards. The Cowboys were forced to punt on 4th-and-7, needing 49 yards for a score. Three Wildcats dropped the quarterback for a 7-yard loss on 2nd-and-15 during the Cowboys’ ensuing possession. They netted 16 yards in eight plays using 4:07. An incomplete pass on 4th-and-18 turned the ball over on downs.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: The game referee shows the coin sides to Willcox captain Jonathan Garcia prior to the mid-field flip.

Morenci head coach Joseph Garcia lauded the Wildcats’ defensive efforts on both Willcox possessions.

The Wildcats took 3:46 to gain 25 yards in five plays before punting on 4th-and-6, 74 yards from the goal line between Willcox possessions. But on their last possession, beginning with 2:38 remaining, a 7-yard loss left a 2nd-and-17 situation. A play that had worked a couple of times earlier was called. It resulted in a 20-yard gain with 1:28 remaining. The Wildcats did not need to score again, leading 14-6. They took a delay of game penalty and twice dropped to a knee to seal its second win.

Willcox totaled eight possessions, resulting in three punts, two interceptions, a fumble, a turnover on downs, and a lone score.

Morenci had nine possessions, punting thrice, scoring twice, fumbling once, being intercepted once, running out of time once, and winding down the clock.

The Wildcats won the coin toss and choose to kick.

Willcox fumbled away its initial possession on 3rd-and-4, following seven plays gaining 33 yards.

Carlos Bray recovered the fumble to put Morenci on offense. The Wildcats drove 79 yards in 12 plays on their initial possession, using 8:06. A 5-yard penalty, 54 yards on 11 carries, and a Brandon Blair to Maddux Martinez pass went for an 18-yard score. A Hugo Mancinas PAT kick gave Morenci a 7-0 advantage with 18 seconds left in the opening quarter.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci senior lineman Omar Ortega zeros in on Willcox junior running back Ote Allsup. Ortega totaled six solo tackles.

Willcox was intercepted on its second possession, after gaining 40 yards on five plays.

Bray came down with the ball, but a first down was followed by a quarterback sack and a punt resulted on 4th-and-13, after a gain of 11 yards.

The Cowboys drove 67 yards in four plays plus a 15-yard penalty for a score. Junior running back Ote Allsup capped the drive from five yards out. Lance “L.T.” Morey used his belly to block the extra point attempt. Morenci led 7-6 with 4:46 left in the first half.

The Wildcats were intercepted after gaining 11 yards in four plays.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Willcox junior spirit line member Yasmine Abril prepares to lead the crowd in a cheer.

Ayden Fuentes picked off the Blair aerial, but Morey intercepted a Caiden Hall pass after the Cowboys had netted a pair of first downs. Morenci had with 38 seconds left in the half, gained 24 yards before running out of time.

The Wildcats received the second half kick, drove 75 yards in five plays for their second score, 60 yards on five carries plus a 15-yard penalty. Bray bolted 34 yards to give Morenci a 13-6 edge with 8:56 left in the third quarter. Mancinas made it 14-6 with the PAT kick.

Willcox punted on its next two possessions, on 4h-and-8 and on 4th-and-15 while Morenci punted on 4th-and-5 and fumbled on 1st-and-18 with 36 seconds elapsed in the fourth quarter.

Morenci gained 193 yards on 38 carries and 46 on 3-4 passes.

Bray averaged 7.2 (13-93) yards per carry, Harrington 5.5 (10-55) yards, Morey 5.3 (6-32) yards, and Blair 1.3 (9-12) yards.

Blair completed 3-4 passes for 46 yards with one interception. Morey averaged 13.0 (1-13) yards and Madduz Martinez 16.5 (2-33) yards per catch.

Defensively, 16 different Wildcats made tackles with seven having at least one apiece. PaulDaniel Moreno netted nine stops (three solo, six assisted), Zachary Esparza seven (two solo, five assisted), Omar Ortega six (six solo), Martinez five (five solo), and Morey four (two solo, two assisted).

Moreno and Clayton Basham both recorded a quarterback sack, Bray and Morey both intercepted a pass, Bray recovered a fumble, and Morey blocked a kick.

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