It’s been a while since the Willcox Cowboys were able to claim the Seney-Lohman trophy to say the least.
Friday night, that all changed.
Willcox hasn’t beaten Benson since 2011. The Cowboys lost 10 straight games in the series. A lot of the frustration of prior teams was released with the Cowboys’ 56-25 victory Friday night over the Bobcats in Benson.
The Cowboy offensive attack was predominantly on the ground. Seniors Ayden Fuentes and Cristian Pando were dominant running the ball, accounting for essentially all of the Cowboy’s scores.
Pando got things started on the opening drive of the game, setting the tone early and driving down the field and scoring from six yards out to make it 7-0 early.
The Benson offense took the field and didn’t wait long to answer. Senior Aiden Finch was the primary target on a scoring drive, which ended in a 15-yard pass from quarterback Dalton Crockett to him over a Cowboy defender to make it 7-6 after a failed PAT.
Pando would score again to make it 14-6. A turnover by each team briefly halted the scoring until Crockett went back to Finch for another touchdown, making it 14-12 after a failed two-point conversion.
Willcox head coach Eric Hjalmarson admitted he was surprised at the new-look Benson offense, a more pass-heavy offense, compared to years past.
“Yes, we made some adjustments…I thought that they were going to run the ball a little more, but we were ready,” he said.
With 8:55 left in the second quarter, it seemed that this game had all the makings of a back-and-forth contest, but this was as close as it would get.
Pando and Fuentes took turns on big runs for touchdowns that quickly made it 26-12. And with 35 seconds left in the half, Fuentes scored on another back-breaking long run to make it 33-12 at the half.
A great running game starts with the guys upfront. Hjalmarson praised his offensive line after their dominant performance.
“Our offensive line, they are small, but we get after it,” Hjalmarson said. “We’re working well, our coaching staff, just everything is going well right now.”
Benson received the second-half kickoff, and after a three-and-out, Pando returned a short punt from around the 50-yard line back for another touchdown, making it 39-12.
Benson did respond with a long touchdown drive that resulted in a Colton Tyra rushing touchdown to make it 39-19 just over halfway through the third quarter, but Fuentes took the first Cowboys play from scrimmage after the kickoff to the endzone for yet another 60-plus yard run, all but putting the game away 46-19.
Benson will look to bounce back next week as they travel to Bisbee (1-1).
Willcox will look to continue its momentum as it looks to move to 3-0 against visiting Sequoia Pathway, which is also 2-0 after Friday night’s 32-14 win over Tombstone at home.
Hjalmarson acknowledged the level of opponents that are on the horizon.
“You know, we got tough games. Sequoia Pathway is good, and then Morenci obviously is very, very, very good, and then Pima is the real deal too,” he said.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com writing intern Harrison Moreno is a southern Arizona native who has watched Wildcat athletics since he was young kid. He recently is a graduate of The University of Arizona’s School of Journalism, with a focus in broadcast and audio journalism.