By DOUG DONNELLY
MORENCI — The Morenci Bulldogs will play in the third round of the Division 8 playoffs next week after a 42-22 win at home Friday in the District 2 championship game against Whiteford.
The Bulldogs used a pair of TD passes from Torin Merillat to Alexander Thomas, plus 221 yards and two touchdown runs by Austin Sandusky to win their 10th game of the season.
It’s the deepest Morenci has made it in the playoffs since the 1996 team went to the state finals and lost.
“This means a lot to our school and our city,” Thomas said. “It’s been a long time since we’ve got one of these. This is real big for Morenci.”
Morenci had gone 3-6 in 2012 and 4-5 last year. Many of the players on those two teams were inexperienced underclassmen. Those kids have now grown up and have become the first Bulldog team with 10 wins since 1996.
“I give all the credit to our seniors,” Merillat said. “They stuck with it, even during those years they knew we weren’t going to be very good.”
The Bulldogs went up 14-6 with a TD right before halftime, then scored 21 third-quarter points to pull away from the 7-4 Bobcats.
Whiteford’s offense did manage 21 first downs and 410 total yards in the loss.
Senior quarterback John Reditt threw for 112 yards and led Bobcat rushers with 95 yards. Sophomore Jesse Kiefer had 73 yards rushing and his 18th TD of the season. Josh Beck scored two touchdowns for the Bobcats.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game,” Reditt said. “We knew we had to step up our game, limit our turnovers and their big plays, but they still got some.”
Reditt finished his career by quarterbacking the Bobcats to 16 wins and two playoff appearances and more than 1,500 career passing yards. He made 27 starts at quarterback, one of the highest totals ever for a Whiteford quarterback.
“I started realizing late in the game this is probably my last game,” he said. “Most of the kids out here, including me, will probably never play football again. You have to leave it all out there.”