Wildkats end first-ever three-game pairing with two victories

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Sophomore lineman Tommy Hille pressures Bowie/San Simon quarterback Brandon Martinez. The Wildkats sputtered offensively early but posted a 57-12 region win Aug. 31.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

DUNCAN – A historic three-game run has ended and the best thing about the 2018 Duncan football team is the improvement.

“We’re getting better every week,” first-year head coach Eric Bejarano said. “We’re where we need to be (at this point in the season).”

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Lucas Basteen eludes the grasp of a final defender to return a punt for a score against the Cougars.

Midway through its season, Duncan has averaged a score of 31-20 (123-80) through four games against opponents with combined overall records of 5-7. In its second half, the Scarlet and Gray face teams with combined 7-8 records.

The 2-2 Wildkats have an open date this Friday, followed by four region games, at Saint David (3-1) Sept. 21 and at Fort Thomas (3-0) Sept. 8, before completing the regular season on Packer Field with Elfrida Valley Union (0-4) Oct. 5 and Sells Baboquivari (1-3) Oct. 12.

During 15 previous seasons (2002-17) of playing in the 8-man format, Duncan went 65-63, 34-31 on Packer Field and 31-32 on the road, with an average score of 30-30 (3,850-3,854).

The Wildkats are 6-4 versus Saint David with an average score of 32-30 (318-302), 8-7 and 34-30 (514-434) versus Fort Thomas, 5-9 and 20-31 (276-440) versus Valley Union, and 1-0 and 44-0 (44-0) versus Baboquivari.

Frogs – 36, Wildkats – 14

Salome scored during the opening quarter at 2:37. Duncan answered with nine seconds elapsed in the second period. A Jason McGrath to Tanner Brown 30-yard pass plus successful 2-point conversion knotted the score at 8-8.

The Frogs scored the next 20 points on three touchdowns plus a conversion before the Wildkats crossed the goal line again. Wesley Conyer turned a McGrath pass into a 38-yard score with 34 seconds elapsed in the final period.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Sophomore Tanner Brown scored one of three second-half touchdowns against Bowie/San Simon Aug. 31 and one of two against Salome Sept. 7. He also added two of eight against Fredonia Aug. 24.

Salome returned the ensuing kickoff 44 yards for the game’s final score.

The Wildkats earned 12 first downs and netted 262 yards, 165 on 39 carries and 97 on five passes. Additionally, Duncan gained 106 return yards, did not punt, lost two of two fumbles, and drew 70 yards on 10 penalties.

Individually, McGrath averaged 11 (1-11) yards per carry, Lucas Basteen 5.2 (13-67) yards, Brown 4.0 (3-12) yards, and Conyer 3.7 (18-66) yards.

McGrath completed 4-12 passes for 86 yards with two interceptions, Conyer 1-11 for 20 yards, and Brown 0-7 with an interception. Five different Wildkats each caught a pass, Conyer for 38 yards, Brown and Christopher Smith for 20 yards apiece, McGrath for 11 yards, and Cesar Contreras for 8 yards.

Defensively, Conyer totaled 14 tackles and Contreras 13 plus a quarterback sack.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Junior Christopher Smith keeps both feet inbounds to record the initial second-half score against Bowie/San Simon. Smith caught a 20-yard Jason McGrath aerial and Conyer added the conversion run.

Wildkats – 57, Cougars – 12

Duncan struggled with 13 Cougars on Packer Field early but settled down as the game progressed. The Wildkats fumbled the ball the first time touching it with 3:13 elapsed. However, the Cougars had two possessions and snapped 10 plays, punting twice on fourth-and-19, before the Wildkats ran their initial offensive play, a 55-yard Conyer touchdown run with more than five minutes elapsed in the game. A Contreras conversion run gave the hosts an 8-0 advantage.

The Wildkats limited the visitors to eight yards and forced a third punt, gained 52 yards before fumbling a second time, forced another punt after a 52-yard gain, and Basteen returned it 15 yards for a second score. Duncan led 14-0 with 53 seconds left in the opening period.

Bowie/San Simon gained 12 yards and punted; the Wildkats were sacked on fourth down, and the Cougars narrowed the deficit to eight points with a first-down touchdown as Brandon Martinez hooked up with Nathaniel Diaz on a 56-yard pass with 7:07 left in the first half.

Duncan’s next two possessions totaled three plays, as Conyer and Contreras scored once each plus a Contreras conversion run, for a 28-6 advantage with five minutes left in the half.

The Cougars were short on fourth down, and Brody Heap returned a fumble 64 yards for their second score. His conversion run was stopped.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Sophomore Jason McGrath returned an interception for a touchdown with 5:02 left in the first half. However, a penalty negated his 49-yard effort. Conyer scored from seven yards out on 1st-and-goal to give Duncan a 28-6 advantage over Bowie/San Simon seconds later.

Conyer took a first-down handoff 35 yards to the end zone with no time left, giving the Wildkats a 34-12 halftime advantage.

A Brown to Smith 20-yard pass plus a Conyer conversion run, a Brown 20-yard run plus conversion run, and a Contreras 80-yard run plus Conyer kick completed the scoring.

The Cougars also had three second-half possessions, ending on a fourth-and-17 punt after gaining 21 yards, short on fourth-and-5 after a 38-yard gain, and ran out of time on its own half of the field.

Duncan totaled five first downs in gaining 402 yards on 26 carries and 20 yards on a pass. The Wildkats also netted 146 return yards, did not punt, lost three of three fumbles, and were assessed 60 yards on five penalties.

Individually, Conyer averaged 22.3 (8-178) yards per carry, Smith 30 (1-30) yards, Contreras 15.8 (6-95) yards, Basteen 10.2 (5-51) yards, and Brown 8.0 (6-48) yards. Brown completed 1-2 passes for 20 yards and McGrath 0-1, and Smith caught the pass.

Defensively, Conyer totaled 12 tackles plus two quarterback sacks, Basteen 12 tackles, and Contreras 10 tackles.

Wildkats – 52, Lynx – 8

Duncan recorded a historic 52-8 win, defeating the Fredonia Lynx in the inaugural pairing of the two teams. The game was held in the Walkup Skydome on the Northern Arizona University campus Aug. 24.

The Wildkats received the ball with 2:15 remaining to be played and McGrath took a knee as needed to wind down the clock. Duncan led 52-8 after three periods, 46-0 at half halftime, and 16-0 following the opening period.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Junior Cesar Contreras pulls away for a 7-yard second-period score against the Cougars. He added Duncan’s final touchdown on an 80-yard run during the closing seconds of the game.

A running clock, after scoring on a Cliff Hansen fumble recovery with 3:27 left in the first half and a Smith conversion run, was in effect for most of the second half.

Fredonia crossed the goal line with 6:23 left in the third period to narrow the deficit to 30 points. However, a Contreras 1-yard run 1:23 later again prompted the running clock.

Smith started the Wildkats’ scoring on an 11-yard run and Conyer added the conversion run during the opening 3:13. A Brown 15-yard run along with a Brown to Contreras aerial gave Duncan a 16-0 advantage with 2:10 left in the first period.

A Brown to Smith 24-yard pass plus Conyer conversion run at the 10:25 mark, a Conyer 33-yard run plus Basteen conversion run at the 8:39 mark, and a Basteen 9-yard run at the 5:29 mark of the second period gave the Wildkats a 38-0 advantage.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Duncan junior Domanique Giacoletti cheers for the Wildkats.

“It was a good experience,” Bejarano said. “We noticed our fans. There were about three dozen family members on hand.”

Three days of practice in preparation for the game included extra running.

“We (coaches) didn’t tell them (players) the reason,” he said. “It (extra running) was because of the altitude. They handled it pretty good.” (sic)

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Senior Wesley Conyer limits Bowie/San Simon’ Diego Aguilera for a 5-yard gain. The Cougars were forced to punt after gaining 34 yards on their initial possession. Duncan fumbled the ensuing kick and forced the visitors to punt on their next possession.

Fourteen Wildkats defeated the 13-member Lynx squad. Duncan earned 11 first downs in gaining 251 yards, 234 on 28 carries and 27 on two of six passes.

Additionally, the Scarlet and Gray netted 110 return yards, punted once for 37 yards, recovered its two fumbles, and had one penalty of 15 yards.

Individually, Basteen averaged 15.6 (5-78) yards per carry, Conyer 8.6 (8-69) yards, Brown 6.4 (7-45) yards, Smith 6.3 (3-19) yards, and Contreras 4.6 (5-23) yards. Brown completed 2-2 passes for 27 yards and Smith was 0-4. Smith caught a pass for 24 yards and Contreras was 1-3.