They have a solid program and the talent this year to be a playoff team. The question then comes down to whether the Ironwood Ridge Nighthawks can get the job done and bring home a state title this year.
The Nighthawks took home the state title in 2012 after handily defeating Centennial 27-3. The team felt the loss of seniors Tyler Williams and Anthony Braunreiter this last year as they finished the 2013 season with a 6-5 record. The Nighthawks ended up making it to the playoffs but got knocked out in the first round by Marcos De Niza (7-5).
Having lost a handful of seniors last year, head coach Matt Johnson says one of the biggest challenges is seeing who will step up and replace them this year. Some of that leadership may be easily disposed to some of his top players – seniors Austin Goddard, Dominic Campas and Matthew Solverson.
“Austin is a great leader, very physical and one I can trust on and off the field,” said Johnson. “Dominic’s selflessness will be a key success for our success this year and Matt does everything right and is just a great kid.”
The strength and glue of the team is the depth of the interior line positions where Goddard and Solverson, both college recruits, will be playing. According to Johnson, this years players are very physical, which will help the Nighthawks handle other teams better in the interior.
“The players are physical and the practices are more physical, because more guys are competing for playing time,” said Johnson. “This year we need to control the running game – that’s always key for the win.”
Players that Johnson is also expecting to bring in some valuable minutes are juniors Henry Beemiller, a wide receiver, and Michael Ayers who will play the linebacker position. Ayers, like some of his other teammates will bring physicality and toughness to the Nighthawk’s team. Though their inside game is strong, the Nighthawks will struggle in other areas due to their lack of depth.
“If we have any injuries it’ll get interesting. In the end it’s one of those things that you find weaknesses in every team. We’re blessed in some areas and not in other areas,” said Johnson, referring to the lack of depth in his defens’s secondary positions. “We just need to try our best to keep our guys healthy.”
So far so good for the Nighthawk’s football team as all are healthy and ready for the first game of the season. Heading into the season, Johnson’s goal is not just to win games.
“Our biggest goal is always for the kids to behave on and off the field and be the best they can be,” said Johnson. “We have the kids that work hard year around, we have a lot of parent support and we have the talent.”
The Nighthawks will face off against Cienega for their first home game on Friday, Aug. 29 at 7 p.m.