The Morenci Wildcats handed the Cowboys of Willcox their first defeat of the season with 27-10 loss at home on the Hill Friday night.

The win moves the Wildcats to the No. 3 spot with a 3-1 record in region 2A San Pedro, 7-1 in conference play and 7-2 overall with one regular season game remaining this Friday night with MHS traveling to face the region’s No. 1 team, the Roughriders of Pima.

The Cowboys won the toss Friday night and elected to receive the football, but their first drive stalled.

The Wildcats’ first drive did not.

Starting at their own 45 yard-line, sophomore Michael Casillas had a pair of runs that moved the ball to the Cowboy 35. Junior Patrick Chavez picked up three yards and Derek Saenz moved the ball to the 22-yard-line. Casillas ripped his way through the right side of the Willcox defense for 22 yards and the night’s first touchdown. Austyn Nelson, sophomore guard and kicker, added the PAT, 7-0 with 6:30 remaining in the first quarter.

That would remain the score as the second period started.

The Cowboys’ first drive of the second period looked like it would be productive as they moved the ball from their own 29 yard-line to four yards form the Wildcats’ goal line.

Morenci caused a fumble on third and goal, but Willcox recovered it back at the nine-yard line. Facing fourth and nine from the nine the Cowboys elected to settle for three points and Cowboy Jaden Wilson split the uprights and cut the Wildcat lead to 7-3 with 6:50 left in the first half.

Following the ensuing kickoff and on the second play from scrimmage Casillas took a pitch out from quarterback Daylen Johnson and went 65 yards, exactly one minute after the Cowboys’ first score. Nelson added the PAT, 14-3.

Willcox could do nothing on their next possession and punted to Morenci. After a proliferation of yellow flags MHS was forced to start on their own four yard-line, but were still able to move the ball out to the Cowboy 45-yard line as the first half ended.

The Wildcats started the second half with a dazzling 50-yard run by Saenz to the Willcox 12-yard line. Casillas moved the ball to the seven-yard line and Chavez covered that distance on the next play; with failed PAT the Wildcats were up 20-3 with 10:23 left in the period.

The remainder of the third period was taken up with good defense by both teams and a rash of yellow flags.

The Cowboys were moving the ball late in the third period and that drive, mostly on the legs of Willcox quarterback Ayden Fuentes, rolled over into the final quarter. Fuentes found the goal line at the 10:39 mark and with a successful PAT cut the Morenci lead to 20-10.

Following a short on-side kick Morenci took over at mid-field and promptly advanced the ball to the Willcox 15-yard line. The Cowboys knocked the ball free, recovered at their own 14-yard line.

As Willcox began to move the ball the yellow laundry again filled the air. The Cowboys got as close at the MHS 25-yard line, but several calls had them back at their own 41-yard line. At one point it was first down and 35 yards to go. Finally faced with fourth and eight yards needed for the first down, Willcox elected to go for it and came up short, and handed the ball over to the Wildcats at the Cowboys’ 43.

Five straight runs by Casillas gobbled up those yards as the sophomore running back crossed the goal line with :40 seconds left on the scoreboard clock. Nelson’s PAT sailed through the night and through the goal post for the successful PAT, final score 27-10.

Morenci’s win and Willcox’s loss makes this coming Friday night a big night in region 2A San Pedro.

The now No. 3 Morenci Wildcats will face No. 1 Pima, while No. 4 Willcox will travel to meet No. 2 Benson.

Does that sound like and exciting night of high school football to you folks?

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