By Jon Johnson and Raymundo Frasquillo
GRAHAM AND GREENLEE COUNTY – The fields are prepped, the plays are written and it’s time to hit the gridiron as the 2017 football season in the Gila Valley is upon us.
Defending 2A State Champion Thatcher is set to kick off its season hosting the Willcox Cowboys. Thatcher has a new quarterback in its stable, Jack Kortson, who just happened to have transferred from Willcox in the offseason. We will find out tonight if Kortson is behind center, and if so, how he did against his old squad.
Safford opens its season with a home game against the Payson Longhorns. How well will its ground game do against Payson’s stingy defense? Gila Valley Central will be on scene and will provide a full write up along with a video highlight package of the game.
The Pima Roughriders had a bad break last year after big-arm quarterback Josh Whitaker was kicked out of a game over a phantom call. Whitaker is back and set to take his revenge on the Miami Vandals on Friday, but without the twin Kartchner towers to toss it up too, will Pima’s air attack be the same? Gila Valley Central will be on scene to find out.
All of the games will start at 7 p.m. Fort Thomas will have its season opener Aug. 25 at home against the San Pasqual Warriors.
Duncan concludes preparation for the 2017 football season, beginning with a week-long fundamentals camp July 17, with its opener on the road in Winkelman on Friday. The 19-member team takes on Hayden to kick off the program’s 15th 8-man season.
Ninth-year DHS head coach Eldon Merrell has Eric and Joey Bejarano as assistants.
The outcome was a 28-24 loss in Duncan last season, but history favors the Wildkats with a 3-1 overall record versus the Lobos.
Duncan is 57-53 overall, 23-19 in the region, 14-13 in section, 1-9 in the post-season, 31-24 at home on Packer Field, 26-29 on the road, and 10-4 for homecoming, during 14 previous seasons.
In eight seasons under Merrell, the Wildkats have qualified for the postseason seven times, plus are 33-38 overall, 9-4 in the region, 14-13 in section, 16-16 at home, 17-22 on the road, and 6-2 for homecoming.
Morenci will have its season opener at home Aug. 25 against Tonopah Valley.