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Jose Garcia

Multimedia Journalist/Historian

Times set for D-IV-V FB final; Morenci, NW Christian advance

Nov 18, 2012

(Note: Friday’s Division V and IV football championship games at Northern Arizona University will start at 3:07 p.m. and 7:07 p.m., respectively.) 

Morenci took over Phoenix Arcadia High with its fans in the stands and size on the football field.

But Tempe Prep’s undersized squad battled to the end in the first Division V state semifinal football game that had little room for error. In Saturday’s D-V nightcap at Arcadia, Phoenix Northwest Christian and Yuma Catholic made their share of mistakes, but Northwest Christian overcame its errors to advance to another state title game with a 21-17 victory. 

Morenci made the most of its seven possessions in its game to record a 10-7 victory and advance to its first state title game since 1992.

Morenci has made four state title appearances, but its only title victory came in 1976.

“It means everything to me as the head football coach, first of all, to see our 12th man (fans) in strength, and it will be bigger next weekend,” Morenci coach Frank Ogas said. “We are a mining community. A lot of people in the mine (on Saturday were) working. They can’t be here. And so it’s just a great, great tribute to Morenci, Arizona.” 

Morenci scored its only touchdown during its second drive thanks to a couple of big plays by quarterback Clay Ruedas.

First, while facing a third and 11 at Tempe Prep’s 34, Ruedas escaped from trouble and scrambled for a 14-yard gain. Morenci wound up with a field goal attempt on that drive, but the holder, Ruedas, threw to receiver Robert Graggs for a 17-yard gain that set up Morenci with a first and goal at the 4 after the trick play.

Two plays later, Ogas’ son, Frank Jr., a running back shaped like a defensive lineman, shoved his way into the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown. Morenci held the ball for six-plus minutes on that drive as well as during its first drive of the third quarter.

Steven Jackson capped that third quarter drive with a 35-yard field goal. Morenci was averaging 300-plus yards rushing per game, but Tempe Prep’s defense didn’t get pushed around. But time of possession, a couple of miscues and drive-killing penalties hurt a Tempe Prep squad that held Morenci to a season-low 10 points.

Also, not scoring despite having a first and goal from Morenci’s 6 in the fourth quarter hampered Tempe Prep’s chances of advancing to its first state title game and gave Morenci’s offense another chance to take another six-plus minutes off the clock.

“My O-line is great,” Frank Jr. said. “They help me out so much. I’m just icing on the cake to that.”

Morenci’s defense also did a great job throughout the game of slowing down Tempe Prep’s run game.

Tempe Prep didn’t score until its final drive, when a pass interference penalty on fourth down and a long pass play to Jack Otting-Crandall helped set up quarterback Forest Redlin’s one-yard touchdown plunge with 45.2 seconds remaining.

But the ensuing onside kick didn’t travel the required distance, giving Morenci one last time to do what it did well on Saturday — take time off the clock — and punch its ticket to Friday’s final in Flagstaff.

“I was proud of the way we battled,” Tempe Prep Tommy Brittain coach. “We were very undersized, but we were prepared. They didn’t out physical us. It wasn’t their size that beat us. It was our mistakes, and they are a very good team.”

In the D-V final, Morenci (13-0) will face Northwest Christian (12-1) for the first time this season.

Northwest Christian faced an all too familiar foe in its semifinal that had a lot of success Saturday running the ball with Kody Hazlett. But three fumbles inside Northwest Christian’s 5-yard line, two of which resulted in turnovers, proved costly for Yuma Catholic.

Hazlett rushed for 200-plus yards, but he gave away two of those red zone turnovers during his team’s first two drives. On the first drive, it first appeared that Hazlett had scored, but Northwest Christian’s star player, cornerback Trevor Osborne, stripped the ball away and returned it 99-yards for a touchdown.

But Northwest Christian also was in a giving mood, its special teams in particular.  A blocked pooch punt and another miscue by Northwest Christian’s punter resulted in good field position and scoring drives for Yuma Catholic in the first half.

After the game, Northwest Christian coach Dave Inness blamed himself for calling for the pooch punt that was blocked. But Northwest Christian also turned a failed fake punt play by Yuma Catholic into a touchdown drive to tie the game at 14 in the second quarter.

Despite its mistakes, Yuma Catholic (11-2) took a 17-14 lead after Osvaldo Rodriguez made a 21-yard field goal with 10:30 remaining in the game. Northwest Christian’s offense also had success moving the ball, and after Yuma Catholic’s field goal, Inness’ team then drove 85 yards for the winning touchdown.

On its final play of that drive, Northwest Christian faced a fourth and 10 from Yuma Catholic’s 29-yard line. Northwest Christian decided not to call a timeout and ran a play for Osborne.

On the play, Northwest Christian faked a fly sweep run and quarterback Kyle Shipp then found an open Osborne, who took care of the rest to score from the right side of the field.

“We weren’t satisfied with just the first win (against Yuma Catholic) at the start of this season, ” Osborne said. “And we didn’t want to lose to these guys again (like last year in the D-V final).”

In the end, Northwest Christian’s defense kept Yuma Catholic from scoring on its final two drives to help its team secure its third consecutive state championship appearance.

Northwest Christian has won six of its previous seven meetings against Yuma Catholic in the past three seasons.

“We made plays in the end,” Inness said. “So we are happy, and we are blessed. Yuma Catholic is a great team.”

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