Photo by Doug Cook.
Originally Published: September 24, 2016 6 a.m.
BAGDAD – Mayer High’s football program has made steady strides this season under first-year coach and former Wildcat Mike Gutierrez. But the Wildcats, who are still in rebuilding mode, didn’t have nearly enough to upset Bagdad at home.
In a 1A Conference West Region clash Friday night, Sept. 23, at the Sultans’ football field, Bagdad roughed up Mayer, 89-18, to stay undefeated at 6-0 and 4-0 in league play. The Wildcats dropped to 4-2 overall and 2-1 in region as the second half of the eight-man season is well underway.
Sultans quarterback Israel Loveall threw for five touchdowns in the first half and his brother, wideout Benjamin Loveall, had three TD catches. Bagdad cornerback Scott Finnerty had three interceptions. Connor Pacheco had a pick-six in the second half.
Mayer quarterback Dylan Wilhide threw a TD pass and had a 50-yard TD run.
In the eight-man game within Yavapai County, Mayer had long been the top dog. For decades, Bagdad played second fiddle. However, the roles have been reversed for the past six years.
Mayer, a three-time 1A state champion (1975, 1994, 2006) and four-time state runner-up (1976, 1984, 1993, 2005), hasn’t qualified for the state playoffs since 2011. Mayer hasn’t won a state playoff game since 2010. Ironically, Bagdad eliminated the Wildcats in the second round that year, and things haven’t been the same since for the proud program 30 miles east of Prescott.
Bagdad, under Mills, has pieced together quite a run over the past few years. Long mired in obscurity, the Sultans won the program’s second state title in 2013, claimed state runner-up honors in 2014 and finished as a state semifinalist in 2015.
This season, the Sultans of Bagdad – located some 60 miles west of Prescott – have a legitimate shot to vie for another state championship. Defending 1A state champion Pima, which eliminated Bagdad from the postseason last fall, moved up to the 2A ranks in the off-season.
The Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) will release its initial power-point rankings for the 2016 season next Tuesday, Sept. 27. Bagdad will likely earn the No. 1 ranking. Superior is the probable No. 2.
Next Friday, the Wildcats were supposed to play host to region foe Telesis Prep on Senior Night, but the school in Lake Havasu this week cancelled the rest of its 2016 season, presumably due to low participation numbers.
Mayer athletic director Jeff Duncan will be seeking another opponent for the Wildcats to play next Friday. At this late stage of the season, that could prove difficult.
Meanwhile, Bagdad will continue on in region play when it visits Salome at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 30.