Morenci faces second post-season challenge Friday

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: Senior Steven Chavarria broke an 8-8 deadlock on a 65-yard first-down run with 11 seconds elapsed in the second half. He gained 56 yards on 12 other carries for 9.3 yards average per carry on the night. Morenci limited the Coyotes to nine second half points for a 27-17 first-round win in Lawson Stadium Nov. 4. The Wildcats will need to have a staunch defense to have a chance against the Round Valley Elks in the second round.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

EAGER – The No. 8 Morenci Wildcats (8-3 overall, 3-3 East Region for No. 4) will take on the top-ranked Eagar Round Valley Elks (11-0, 6-0 East for No. 1) at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10, or five weeks after being shut out 44-0 by the Elks.

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: Junior defenders Isaac Pacheco (2) and Christian Alva (21) stood up Coyotes’ senior Jack Gray (34) for a third-quarter no-gain.

History favors the Elks with a 9-4 overall mark (5-1 at home, 1-0 in the post-season) and a 25-10 (323-136) average score per game since 1972 over the Wildcats. The teams met in the post-season during the 2015 first round, a 27-13 Elks’ win.

In the prior 10 seasons of 2A Class and Division V state playoffs combined, the No. 1 team is 8-2 in the second round, 4-0 over No. 8 and 4-2 over No. 9.

The David Gallegos-coached Wildcats have not been closing their eyes and clicking their heels three times hoping to win. They have been pushing themselves daily in the practice sessions, preparing for the opportunity to show what they can do.

Morenci has improved both offensively and defensively under the first-year coach, scoring eight more points and yielding nine fewer points per game than in 2016, 25-30 (271-329).

A 10-point (27-17) margin appeared on the scoreboard following the first-round triumph over the No. 9 Phoenix Arizona Lutheran Coyotes (10-2, 4-2 Metro West for No. 3) last week.

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: Senior Steven Chavarria waves a flag, flanked by classmates Markus (76) and Isiah Sanchez (70) along with the rest of the team, while singing the school alma mater at game’s conclusion. Morenci is at Round Valley for a second-round game Friday, Nov. 10.

However, just like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, the answer lies within. It comes down to believing in oneself, each other, the coaches, and the system in place.

Coach Gallegos feels the Wildcats are ready, preparing as Chinaman Sun Tzu’s Art of War advises, know your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. Spies have not been employed; rather, game videos have been analyzed to derive a game plan, and viewed by the players.

The Wildcats are a different team than the one that met the Elks on Oct. 6, averaging a 33-21 (297-193) score per game or a 12-point margin this season compared to a 45-8 (460-78) score per game or a 37-point margin for the Elks. In region play, the Elks averaged a 49-7 (293-40) score per game compared to a 24-22 (142-133) average score per game by Morenci.

Round Valley defeated San Carlos 66-0, Miami 63-12, Morenci 44-0, Thatcher 20-6, Pima 55-8, and Saint Johns 45-14 in region play. The Elks ousted No. 16 Kingman Academy (7-4, 4-2 Metro West for No. 2) 62-0 in the first round.

Morenci’s region wins were 65-6 over San Carlos, 45-0 over Miami, and 14-0 over Pima while the losses were 6-36 to Thatcher, 12-47 to St. Johns, and 0-44 to Round Valley.

The other second-round pairings are No. 5 Scottsdale Christian (10-2, 4-2 Metro West for No. 3) at No. 4 Eloy Santa Cruz Valley (10-0, 5-0 Central for No. 1), No. 6 St. Johns (8-3, 4-2 East for No. 3) at No. 3 Thatcher (10-1, 5-1 East for No. 2), and No. 10 Tempe Prep (7-4, 3-3 Metro West for No. 5) at No. 2 Phoenix Christian (11-0, 6-0 Metro West for No. 1).

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: Metro West runner-up Arizona Lutheran was held to 17 points or half of its regular season average by Morenci. Pulling linemen, junior Marcus Perez (67) and sophomore Josh Wagenknecht (55), run interference as senior quarterback Nick Naber (9) turns to hand off to senior Jack Gray (34), senior Jeremy Donovan (24), or junior Brando Garcia (5) during the third quarter.

During last week’s first round, it was Scottsdale Christian 35-6 over No. 12 Whiteriver Alchesay (8-3, 6-0 North for No. 1), Santa Cruz 61-26 over No. 13 Pima (5-6, 2-4 East for No. 5), Saint Johns 36-14 over No. 11 Queen Creek San Tan Foothills (8-2, 6-0 Metro East for No. 1), Thatcher 62-6 over No. 14 Willcox (5-6, 3-2 South for No. 2), Tempe Prep 44-37 over No. 7 Gilbert Christian (7-4, 3-3 Metro West for No. 4), and Phoenix Christian 42-8 over No. 15 Bisbee (7-4, 3-2 South for No. 3).