Wildcats welcome Pumas for 56th homecoming Friday

Photo By Katelynn Clark: Morenci sophomore Austyn Nelson (53) and junior Patrick Chavez (13) lead interference for diminutive sophomore workhorse Michael Casillas (7) against Saint Johns. Casillas netted 204 yards on 24 carries, scoring from six and 17 yards. Redskin senior defenders are Afton Cox (40) and Luis Morales (7). Morenci defeated Saint Johns 27-7 in Lawson Stadium on Sept. 24. The 4-1 Wildcats welcome the 3-2 Bisbee Pumas for the school’s 56th homecoming game Friday, Oct. 1. Morenci is 36-19 overall for homecoming, 13-8 in the 21st Century, and 4-1 with Bisbee as the opponent.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

MORENCI – The Morenci Wildcats’ welcome the Bisbee Pumas for their 56th Homecoming game Friday, Oct. 1. Morenci is 38-17 overall for homecoming, 13-8 in the 21st Century, and 4-1 with Bisbee as the opponent.

The No. 19 ranked Pumas (3-2 overall, minus 0.7295 rating) are 22-20-2 versus Morenci, averaging a score per game of 19-18 (804-780) or a 1-point margin since 1946.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Senior Kaden Summer addresses the gathered crowd during the homecoming bonfire on Sept. 29.

However, No. 5 Morenci (4-1, 8.4792) is 5-2 in Lawson Stadium with an average score per game of 29-18 (205-124) or an 11-point margin. The recent 7-game scores are 35-14 (1989), 13-6 (1992), 49-6 (1993), 22-30 (2005), 21-28 (2007), 33-14 (2009), and 32-26 (2019). Morenci has a current 3-game win streak in the series, also posting 28-7 (2017) and 64-20 (2018) triumphs at Warren Ball Park.

Midway through the regular season, Morenci’s 2021 opponents are a combined 27-20 overall. Maricopa Sequoia Pathway is 3-2, Eagar Round Valley 5-0, Globe 0-4, Phoenix Madison Highland 1-4, Saint Johns 2-3, Bisbee (Oct. 1) 3-2, Tombstone (Oct. 8) 2-2, Benson (Oct. 15) 3-1, Willcox (Oct. 22) 5-0, and Pima (Oct. 29) 3-2.

The six San Pedro Region members are a combined 20-8 overall. The other 38 teams, the five in the Agua Fria Region have a combined overall record of 11-12, the five in the Gila Region 14-11, the six in the Salt Region 9-14, the four in the Little Colorado Region 10-8, the five in the Verde Region 9-14, the five in the Rillito Region 9-15, the five in the Hassayampa Region 7-14, and the 3-team San Juan Region 2-6.

Last week, Arizona Lutheran (5-0) defeated Sequoia Pathway (3-2) 35-6, Round Valley (5-0) defeated Kayenta Monument Valley (3-2) 56-13, Madison Highland (2-3) defeated Globe (0-4) 25-7, Morenci (3-1) defeated Saint Johns (2-3) 27-7, Bisbee (3-2) defeated Tucson Santa Rita (0-4) 55-0, Tombstone (2-2) defeated Tucson Catalina (1-4) 47-0, Benson (3-2) defeated Phoenix Veritas Prep (2-3) 42-7, Willcox (5-0) defeated Phoenix North Point Prep (0-5) 63-0, and Pima (4-2) defeated Scottsdale Christian (3-2) 53-0. Pima also defeated Benson (3-2) on Thursday night, 14-7.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci junior Pride Band percussion member Tyler Lewis performs during a halftime show.

This week, Sequoia Pathway (3-2) hosts Catalina (1-4) in Rillito Region play, Round Valley (5-0) is at Payson in 3A Region play, Globe (0-4) at Gilbert Christian (3-2) in Salt Region play, Madison Highland (2-3) at Scottsdale Prep (4-0, 1-0) in Verde Region play, and Saint Johns (2-3) at Teec Nos Pos Red Mesa (1-0).

The San Pedro Region pairings are Bisbee (3-2) at Morenci (4-1), and Willcox (5-0) at Tombstone (2-2).

Initial 2A statewide rankings for 42 teams on Sept. 28 have four of the San Pedro Region members in the Top 16, Benson (No. 3, 3-1, overall, 8.8169 rating), Morenci (No. 5, 4-1, 8.4792), Willcox (No. 7, 5-0, 6.6260), and Pima (No. 8, 2-2, 6.1859). The other two members, Bisbee (No. 19, 3-2, minus 0.7295) and Tombstone (No. 24, 2-2, minus 5.8880), are in the next eight.

Six of the other eight regions each have two teams in the Top 16. The Agua Fria Region has Parker (No. 1, 4-0, 16.3644) and Camp Verde (No.11, 4-1, 3.5774), the Gila Region has Arizona Lutheran (No. 2, 5-0, 13.8001) and Chandler Prep (No. 10, 3-2, 4.5425), the Salt Region has Gilbert Christian (No. 4, 3-2, 8.6764) and Miami (No. 15, 2-2, 0.4917), the Little Colorado Region has Holbrook (No. 6, 4-1, 7.8467) and Whiteriver Alchesay (No. 12, 3-1, 3.5116), the Verde Region has Scottsdale Prep (No. 9, 4-0, 5.8626) and Scottsdale Christian (No. 14, 2-2, 0.9406), and the Rillito Region has Sequoia Pathway (No. 13, 3-2, 2.8322) and Tanque Verde (No. 16, 3-2, 0.4917).

Wildcats – 27, Redskins – 7

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Junior quarterback Daylen Johnson relays the play called to teammates during a huddle.

As in life, the game’s outcome came down to preparation along with believing in oneself, those around you, and what the people in charge can figure out as best for you.

During the post-game meeting, third-year Morenci head coach Joseph Garcia lauded all of the Wildcats for participating in the off-season workouts and the weight lifting sessions, taking part in the regular season practice sessions, and studying game films. It all helped in preparing them for success on the field.

On the night, Morenci netted 360 offensive yards, 346 on 31 rushes, and 14 with a pass reception compared with 111 offensive yards, 21 in the first half with 22 plays and 90 in the second half with 28 plays for Saint Johns.

The visiting Redskins outscored their hosts 7-6 in the second half, but the Wildcats withstood the later deficit with a 21-0 first-half advantage.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci sophomore Tristen Sanchez and senior Richard Trott III force Saint Johns’ quarterback James Thomas to scramble. Sanchez recorded five sacks on the night.

Saint Johns received the second-half kick and marched 52 yards in 10 plays using 5:22. Senior quarterback James Thomas connected with classmate Luis Morales for a 13-yard scoring pass. Senior Leo Hernandez added the conversion kick with 6:38 left in the third quarter. The Redskins’ next three possessions ended in punts twice, on 4th-and-14 after gaining 22 yards in nine plays and on 4th-and-31 after gaining four yards in three plays; and in time running out on first down 22 yards away.

Morenci fumbled after gaining 32 yards on three plays, punted after three plays on 4th-and-8, and drove 70 yards in nine plays as sophomore Michael Casillas scored on a 17-yard run with 52 seconds remaining.

The teams spared with each other during their initial two possessions with both resulting in punts, on 4th-and-7 and 4th-and-8 by the Wildcats plus on 4th-and-6 and 4th-and-1 by the Redskins.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Head coaches Mike Morgan of Saint Johns and Joseph Garcia of Morenci offer a “well done” to each other. The post-game ritual is to help promote sportsmanship.

Morenci received the opening kickoff, scored on a 63-yard run during the first play from scrimmage, but a penalty negated the play and the distance to the end zone became greater. The Wildcats needed to cover 50 yards on their second possession.

The Redskins started out 75 yards away before punting after three plays. Their second possession was five yards longer, gaining 25 yards in eight plays before punting.

There was little doubt on the home sideline as the Wildcats took the downed kick on the 5-yard line the length of the field. Junior Derek Saenz ran 95 yards for the games’ initial touchdown. Senior Brendon Enriquez added the conversion kick. Morenci led 7-0 with 40 seconds left in the first quarter.

Saint Johns fumbled the ensuing kickoff and junior Daylen Johnson recovered the ball. The Wildcats scored twice, in six plays from 39 yards and in five plays from 59 yards away. Casillas capped the first drive with a 6-yard run. A Saenz to sophomore Joseph Seballos conversion pass gave the hosts a 15-0 advantage with 9:28 left in the half. Junior Patrick Chavez capped the next possession with a 16-yard run. Morenci led 21-0 with 4:57 left in the half.

The visitors punted twice, on 4th-and-17 after starting 57 yards away and on 4th-and-12 starting 60 yards out, both after three plays. The Redskins’ final possession of the half resulted in an interception on 3rd-and-20 as time expired. It had started 64 yards away on the 36 but ended with a yard gained on the 37 four plays before the turnover.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: First-year flag line member Anita Gonzalez keeps her hands moving while performing a routine.

For Morenci, Saenz averaged 39.0 (3-117) yards per carry, Casillas 8.5 (24-204) yards, Chavez 5.5 (4-22) yards, and Johnson 1.0 (1-1); Roybal caught a pass for 14 yards, and Johnson completed 1-5 passes for 14 yards with no interceptions.

Defensively, 14 different Wildcats notched at least one tackle. Senior Jericho Sanchez totaled 17 tackles (7 solo, 10 assisted), senior Shawn Hudman 14 (8 solo, 6 assisted), senior Kaden Summer 12 (6 solo, 6 assisted), sophomore Tristen Sanchez 10 (7 solo, 3 assisted), Casillas nine (7 solo, 2 assisted), and both Enriquez (4 solo, 4 assisted) and Patrick Chavez (3 solo, 5 assisted) eight apiece.

Tristen Sanchez recorded five quarterback sacks and Jericho Sanchez one, Roybal intercepted a pass, and Johnson recovered a fumble.

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