Friday night was a special one for football in the Gila Valley, with all the high school teams hosting home games and making the Valley the center of attention of the small-town football universe in Arizona.
The Safford Bulldogs had high hopes of winning on Senior Night when they hosted the Benson Bobcats on their home field.
The Bulldogs players played tough and inspired football all night. At the end of the first quarter after Benson had scored a touchdown to go up by the score of 6-0, Bulldogs field goal kicker Tyler Polanco crushed a kick through the uprights for 32 yards to make the score 3-6.
Unfortunately for Safford, this would be its only score on the board for the game until the final four minutes of the game, when it made a touchdown and extra point. The final score was Safford 10, Benson 30.
Safford is on the road next, as are all Gila Valley teams, to Show Low.
Across town, the Thatcher Eagles hosted the Willcox Cowboys in a critical division matchup on the campus of Eastern Arizona College.
The Eagles led the Cowboys at halftime by a score of 14-7. Both scores for Thatcher in the first half came from passes of 24 yards and 38 yards from quarterback Presley Motes to wide receiver Sam Bagnall. That would not last long in the second half of the game.
On the opening kick-off, the Eagles’ Jacob Drage (who transferred from Willcox) blasted up the middle of the field for 75 yards and the touchdown on the return. Motes chipped in the extra point to make the score 21-7 in favor of the Eagles.
From that point, it was a struggle of team wills and fortitude, and the Cowboys would not give up. Willcox stopped the Eagles at one point as Thatcher was ready to score another touchdown on the 2-yard line.
It was a hard-fought game, and the fourth quarter found the Cowboys in great position. They scored a touchdown with 5:21 on the clock. They missed the extra point but closed the gap to 21-13 in the Eagles’ favor.
Willcox tried a squib kickoff next, but Garret Kartchner wisely covered the ball for Thatcher.
Thatcher put the game away with 1:09 left on the game clock with a short touchdown run from Kartchner, but Motes missed the extra point kick to make the final score 27-13.
Motes on the defensive side of the ball sealed the win with an Eagles interception of Willcox with seconds on the clock. Thatcher is on the road Friday night to play the Benson Bobcats.
What can you say about the Pima Roughriders this season? They have not had a close game all season, always scoring above 50 points a game. See the article by Bennett for the game details. Pima drops Bowie/San Simon by the score of 68-0. Pima goes to 7-0 and will be on the road to finish out its season in St. David Friday night.
The Apaches had a field day against the visitors from Patagonia Lobos for its homecoming night celebrations.
Fort Thomas rolled over the top of the Lobos by a final score of 56 to 8. The Apaches finish their season Thursday afternoon against Cibecue and are still in hopes of a playoff game.
The Wildcats hosted the Tombstone Yellowjackets and were not kind to the kids from the town too tough to die.
Morenci beat the Yellowjackets by the score of 26-7 on its home field. That score is a correction that was missed heard via cell phone call from coach Frank Ogas at the end of the game and printed in the Saturday edition of the Courier.
Morenci is now 7-0 on the season and will travel to Miami on Friday night. Coach Ogas said his team’s goal is still to win the state title and will prepare for tough game against the Vandals on the road.
The Wildkats shredded Superior on Friday night at home with an opening first-quarter score of 36 to 6.
It was a night to remember for Cale Merrill as he scored nine touchdowns on 19 carries for 453 yards rushing. That’s more than 27 yards a carry for Merrill, who has 1,733 yards on the season, leads the division in rushing as a junior and is the number-five leading rusher in the nation out of all high schools. The final score of the game was Duncan 72, Superior 30.
After the game, the father of Cale Merrill and coach for the Wildkats Eldon Merrill, expressed how pleased he was with his team and proud of his son’s performance. Duncan finishes its regular season at home against Patagonia on Friday night.