MORENCI — It was the battle of the undefeated and the Morenci Wildcats hoped to be the first team this season to knock off defending state champion, and division rival, Thatcher Eagles.
Instead, it was the Eagles showing why they have the title.
Thatcher defeated Morenci, 36-6, on Friday.
“Morenci always plays Thatcher tough especially in Morenci,” said Thatcher head coach Sean Hinton. “They’re a good, strong football team that is well coached and will have a really good game plan to stop our running game, I'm sure.”
The Eagles had their way with the Wildcats, dominating on both offense and defense. The Eagles offense scored on their first five possessions, while the defense forced two first half turnovers and kept the Wildcats scoreless in the second half.
The Eagle's run game was unstoppable, running at will and killing the ‘Cats on the option.
Thatcher's wasted no time getting on the scoreboard. Scoring on the first offensive possession with a 15-yard run by Tyler Roebuck. With a little more than three minutes left in the first quarter, Thatcher struck again on a 19-yard touchdown run, this time from Quinton Turley, giving Thatcher a 12-0 lead in the first quarter.
The Wildcats defense continued to struggle in the second quarter, giving up 16 unanswered points. Unable to stop the Eagles uptempo, no-huddle offense, Eagles running back Shane Cooke took it in from 11-yards out for another Eagle's touchdown.
If being down 20-0 in the second quarter wasn't bad enough, the Eagle's defense forced a Wildcats fumble, taking the ball over on the eagles’ 34 yard line. Eagles junior running back Riley Morris fielded a pitch from Roebuck and took it to the house for a 64-yard touchdown run.
The Wildcats were not out though, moving the ball downfield with seconds left remaining in the first half. Wildcats quarterback Mark Roybal rushed in for a 4-yard touchdown, putting Morenci on the scoreboard heading into halftime.
Being down 28-6, the Wildcats were looking to make a comeback. And at the start of the third quarter, the Wildcat's appeared to starting off the second half right where the first half ended. The ‘Cats moved the ball all the way down the field into the red zone and the Wildcat's went for it on fourth down, which lead to a Eagle's sack, forcing a turnover on downs and putting the nail in the coffin on the chance of a Morenci comeback.
“We work hard everyday in practice, and we take it one week at a time. We didn't want to make this game any bigger than it was, and there's always the playoffs where we will meet them again,” said Morenci running back Steven Chavarria. “We’ve got to come out hard in our upcoming games and just continue to play and practice hard.”
The Wildcats (3-1) will be playing on the road for the next four games, starting with St. Johns (3-1) on Friday, Sept. 22 at 7 p.m.
Thatcher (5-0) will host Pima (4-1) in a homecoming game at EAC’s John Mickelson Stadium on Friday, Sept. 22, at 7 p.m.