Morenci welcomes Phoenix for football opener

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: Players take advantage of breaks to hydrate and cool off. Morenci opens its season tonight against the Tonopah Valley Phoenix.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

MORENCI – Kick-off for Morenci’s season and home opener with the Tonopah Valley Phoenix is hours away. The Wildcats are ready.

“The players were more focused in practice this week after a scrimmage last Friday,” first-year MHS head coach David Gallegos said.

Morenci was in The Land of Enchantment, facing the Mavericks in Lordsburg as well as the Hatch Valley Bears on Aug. 18.

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: Newly painted art work behind home side bleachers identifies stadium. The mural was painted by Homer Sanders, of Payson.

The Wildcats addressed a defense that allowed a 30-point average in 2016, the most since the 31 of the 2008 season, and an unproven signal caller, along with several other skill positions on both sides of the line, and special teams.

Thirty-two student-athletes participated in the first day of practice July 24 and 38 at the end of week one, and 50 were on the field for the start of the fifth week Monday, Aug. 21.

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: Individual stopping techniques are repeated with a tackling wheel.

Twenty-one returnees are paced by 3-year letterman and senior Justice Boling. Six seniors in Steven Chavarria, Braden McCarthy, Jude Perez, Jaime Salazar, Markus Sanchez, and Nicolas Carrasco plus two juniors in Ruben Casillas and Mark Roybal have earned two letters apiece. One-year lettermen include four seniors, Devin Martinez, Robert Morey, Patrick Provencio III, and Isaiah Sanchez; six juniors, Christian Alva, Collin Batchelder, Matthew Garcia, Tanner Hudman, Isaac Pacheco, and Christopher Roybal; and two sophomores, Omar Ortega and Beau Wagner.

Others in the program include three seniors, three juniors, 10 sophomores, and 17 freshmen.

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: A specific set of warm-up drills are executed at the start of practice sessions.

Upperclassmen are seniors David Corona, Jacob Munoz, and Jesus Smith along with juniors Mario Garcia, Leander Kitcheyan, and Cameron Wile.

Sophomores include Angel Arrellin, Tayshaun Blackman, Brandon Blair, Carlos Bray, Zachary Esparza, Matthew Harrington, Christian Lexa, Lance Morey, Dustin Nolan, and Tristan Williams.

Freshmen out are Conrad Aguallo, Frankie Araiza, Clayton Basham, Elijah Bullis, Adam Chacon, Dominique Delgadillo, Joseph Hernandez, Maddux Martinez, Mark Martinez, Diego Mendoza, Paul Daniel Moreno, James Munoz, Sammy Sauls, Manuel Siqueiros, Chris Thompson, and Jaydin Yazzie.

Varsity coaching assistants include Joseph Garcia (associate head coach); Josh Sandoval (linebackers, kickers, offensive line); A.J. Sedgeman (defensive backs, running backs); Clay Ruedas (quarterbacks, defensive backs), and Joseph Morse (wide receivers). Junior varsity coaches are Benji Morales, Brandon Blair, and Fred Gallegos.

Morenci’s 2017 schedule is identical to last season, with the same opponents at alternating sites. The Wildcats ended 2016 with a 5-5 record during the 10-game regular season, 2-4 for 5th in the 2A East Region, and 0-1 in the post-season under third-year head coach Gary Sandoval (16-15 overall, 2-4 region, 7-3 section, 0-2 state playoffs).

Along with Morenci, the 2A East Region includes Miami, Pima, Round Valley, St. Johns, San Carlos, and Thatcher.

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: First-year Morenci head football coach David Gallegos watches players during drills.

The upcoming 10 opponents finished 59-42 in the regular season and 10-6 in the postseason, with the two finalists, another semifinalist, a quarterfinalist, and two other first-round participants.

Morenci hosts Tonopah Valley (2016 regular season: 5-5, post-season 0-1) August 25 and Benson (8-2, 2-1) Sept. 1, is at Willcox (2-8, 0-0) Sept. 8, hosts Thatcher (8-2, 4-0) Sept. 15, is at Saint Johns (7-3, 0-1) Sept. 22, at San Carlos (1-9, 0-0) Sept. 29, at Eagar Round Valley (10-0, 3-1) Oct. 6, at Tombstone (6-4, 2-1) Oct. 13, hosts Miami (4-7, 0-0) Oct. 20, and Pima (8-2, 1-1) Oct. 27.

The Wildcats are 36-28 versus the same 10 opponents during the most recent 10 seasons (2007-16), going 1-0 verses Tonopah Valley, 3-7 vs. Benson (0-5 region, 3-0 section, 0-1 state playoff), 8-2 vs. Willcox (3-2, 4-0, 0-0), 3-8 vs. Thatcher (1-4, 2-2, 0-1), 1-2 vs. Saint Johns (0-1, 0-0, 0-0), 6-0 vs. San Carlos (1-0, 3-0, 0-0), 1-5 vs. Round Valley (0-1, 0-0, 0-0), 9-1 vs. Tombstone (3-1, 4-0, 0-0), 3-1 vs. Miami (1-0, 2-1, 0-0), and 1-2 vs. Pima (0-1, 1-1, 0-0).

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: An offensive player holds onto the ball as defensive players try to strip the ball.

In the 2A post-season during the same 10-year span, Tonopah Valley is 0-3, Benson 8-8 (2015 runner-up; 2008, ‘14, ’16 semifinalist; 2009 quarterfinalist), Willcox 3-4 (2009 runner-up), Thatcher 12-8 (2016 champion; 2007, ‘10, ’13 semifinalist; 2008, ’12, ’14 quarterfinalist), Saint Johns 16-7 (2008-09 champion; 2009, ’10, ’11 semifinalist; 2012, ’13 quarterfinalist), San Carlos 0-0, Round Valley 10-6 (2013, ’16 runner-up; 2015 semifinalist; 2011, ’14 quarterfinalist), Tombstone 0-0, Miami 1-3 (2015 quarterfinalist), and Pima 1-1 (2016 quarterfinalist).

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: Linemen use a chute to develop stance as well as the level of movement and blocking.

Since 2007, Morenci has posted a collective 48-45 overall record (10-12 region, 26-4 section, 4-7 state playoffs) and ended as state runners-up in 2012, quarterfinalist in 2011, and one-and-done five times (2008, ’09, ’13, ’15, ‘16).

Photos By Raymundo Frasquillo: Left: Timed stadium runs are for conditioning and building endurance. Right: Blocking drills are repeated daily.