By Lee Patterson
With the football season just around the corner, we will take an in-depth look at the Gila Valley football teams in a 6 part series of previews. We will preview teams from Graham and Greenlee Counties.
Team: Thatcher Eagles
AIA Region Alignment: 2A Black
August 17th vs. Morenci 7:00pm
August 24th @ American Leadership Academy – Queen Creek 7:00pm
August 31st vs. Show Low 7:00pm
September 7th @ Safford 7:00pm
September 14th vs. Benson 7:00pm
September 21st vs. Santa Cruz 7:00pm
September 28th vs. Pima 7:00pm
October 5th – Bye
October 12th @ St. Johns 7:00pm
October 19th @ Round Valley 7:00pm
October 26th vs. Santa Rita 7:00pm
It’s not often a team that has won back-to-back State Championships has a new head coach, but that is the case this season at Thatcher. Ramon Morales takes over as head coach, his first as a head football coach. Morales has 30+ years of experience coaching at Thatcher. Although he has never been the head football coach, he has been on the staff for a number of years and also has been the head baseball coach at Thatcher. Having 17 seniors should make the transition a bit smoother.
Thatcher might have the best offensive line they’ve every had this season. They won several big man challenges over the summer against much bigger schools. “Fear the Veer” starts up front and these guys will get it done again this year.
The Eagles return all 4 of their top running backs from last season. Leading rusher Riley Morris lead the dominant rushing attack with 650 yards and 11 touchdowns. You can’t count out Quinten Turley, Brock Jones or Tevin Clark taking it to the house any time they get the ball.
Jack Kortsen will take over at quaterback. The 6’3″ QB isn’t your prototypical Thatcher signal caller. He can throw the ball with the best in the state. That probably won’t matter this year with Don Conrad taking over the play calling as the Offensive Coordinator. He might throw the ball even less than Sean Hinton did last season. If Kortsen can get comfortable in the offense, he will have a big year.
If Thatcher throws the football, the main target will be 6’6″ Tight End Cole Motes. He recently committed to Utah State University and catches everything in his wingspan. He will be used mostly as a blocker in the run first attack.
There might be only 1 or 2 holes to fill on defense this year for the Eagles. The top 5 tacklers all return this season. Thatcher only gave up over 20 points in a game twice last year, both of them wins. They held opponents to single digit scoring in 8 games last year. With many of the players playing on both sides of the ball, health will be a huge key to success this season.
It’s been said numerous ways over the years but the quote goes, “It’s not what happens to you, it’s how you react to it.” That will be the key in Week 0 for Thatcher. They will host rival Morenci to start the season and will know right away if the head coaching change will have an affect on the team and their transition to the current situation. Thatcher might have the toughest non-conference schedule in the 2A Conference and will be tested early. I think it is unrealistic to think another 13-1 season is on the horizon for the Eagles but are definitely the favorite to cap of the three-peat.