Hitting, running, and execution moves Morenci to 2-0 and up the polls to seven and Thatcher 1-1, slips down the polls to 10. It was a great win for the Morenci Wildcats who beat the Thatcher Eagles 42-27. These were two top 10 teams slugging it out in the division.
Morenci Coach Frank Ogas said, “Tremendous Friday night football environment. Thanks to our fan base and cheerleaders; they were the 12th man on the field.”
Thatcher Coach Dave Jefferies said, “We knew Morenci was going to run at us, but we were not able to capitalize on mistakes. We had four turnovers, and its tough to win when you do that.”
Both Thatcher and Morenci fans, parents, coaches, players and others were upset about the questionable officiating during the game.
Photos during the game showed holding and pass interference in front of officials. One penalty late in the half showed the goal line hurdling call against Thatcher, but it was a case of the player diving and being hit from behind, not hurdling. He also fumbled, and Morenci recovered. Thatcher scored on the next play.
There is one photo of the official in perfect position to call holding on Morenci but did not. Two showed obvious pass interferences, but no calls were made.
The first questionable call of the game came on a Thatcher interception and run back. There was a phantom whistle on the far side of the field well after the initial interception by Thatcher and half way into the return. This sent the Thatcher coaches into a heated exchange with the officials.
Coach Jefferies, normally calm and collected, was visibly upset and called out to officials, “We talked about this before the game.” Then he said, “I am very disappointed.”
To Thatcher’s credit, it quickly put this aside and kept its player’s heads in the game and proceeded to play hard. On Monday Jefferies said, “We knew they were going to be tough, we had some opportunities, but they (Morenci) did a great job.
Morenci had a couple of long plays called back on questionable penalties, and that upset Morenci fans.
Then, later in the first half, the hurdling call again sent the Thatcher team and coaches into a state of dismay at the officiating.
Several fans and parents noticed the unusual amount of scrums, where the ball is presumably fumbled and players pile up and fight for the ball. There no less than seven and as many as 10 or more of these events during the game. There were no whistles stopping play on these events. Officials stood by and watched while players fought it out on the bottom of the pile. One went on for more than 30 seconds.
Expectations in a football game would include a couple of these events, but because officials, for what ever reason, held their whistles, there was an unusual amount of these pile-ups.
This inaction presented some safety issues for players. During one scrum, Thatcher coaches yelled for players to keep fighting because the whistle still had not blown and players from both sides continued to dive on the pile. The play should have been called dead, but officials stood by and watched.
There was the long catch by Morenci and three Thatcher players had the receiver tied up. Normally, referees would call the play, but it was allowed to continue beyond any average time that would have made the play dead. Instead, the Morenci player eventually broke free and ran it in for the score. It was heads-up play by the Morenci player who realized there had been no whistle called. Thatcher players could have been more aggressive with the receiver but showed sportsmanlike restraint after tying him up. Coach Jefferies saw it a little differently, saying that his players were trying to strip the ball and should have finished off the tackle. He said his players were trying to make something good happen.
There was a call that probably should not have been called against Morenci right in front of the Thatcher bench for a personal foul. A photo shows a Morenci players arm high and close to a face mask on a one-on-one tackle, but it was the ferocity of the tackle that brought the penalty. Officials were not in position to see, and the whistle, again, was very late.