A week after dominating rival Canyon Del Oro (0-2), the Ironwood Ridge Nighthawks (2-0) were not about to suffer an emotional letdown against a Marana team that was winless in 2011.
The Nighthawks came out and established the line of scrimmage quickly against the Tigers and rolled to a 58-13 victory.
Alternating runs between Anthony Braunreiter and quarterback Tyler Williams, the Nighthawks went 65 yards on six plays in the opening drive. Braunreiter had 39 yards on the drive, and scored on a one-yard run for a 7-0 lead.
Braunreiter, who played only one half, ran for 93 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries. He also caught a 14-yard scoring pass, and had 49 yards receiving.
“Our O-line did great,” Braunreiter said. “I love our O-line.”
The Nighthawks scored again when Braunreiter caught a 14-yard touchdown pass from Williams to make it 16-0 in the second quarter.
“I just do my best,” Braunreiter said. “We need to get better every week.”
It seemed like whenever the Tigers made a big play, they would immediately lose it.
On the Nighthawks’ second possession, their drive took them down to the five-yard line of Marana. Williams ran in quest of the end zone, but fumbled the ball away, and it was recovered at the two-yard line by Marana. Unfortunately, the excitement was short-lived. On their first play, Bradley Gonzalez took the handoff in the end zone, went to his right but couldn’t escape, and was tackled for a safety to make it 9-0.
Early in the second quarter, the Tigers scored. After a 4-yard touchdown run by Williams made it 23-0, the Nighthawks kicked off and the Tigers Dennis Wilson returned it 35 yards. On the first play from scrimmage, quarterback Ben Honea threw a 59-yard completion to Wilson that put the ball on Ironwood’s 2-yard line. Honea ran it in on the next play, but the kick failed, and it was 23-6.
Honea was 6-14 for 100 yards, and he ran for 36 yards.
The Nighthawks unveiled a new wrinkle on their opening drive of the second quarter.
Cris Thorson, former Mountain View quarterback, took a handoff from Williams and threw a pass, but it fell incomplete. Later in the drive, Williams dumped off a pass to Braunreiter who rumbled 16 yards down to the Tigers’ 34-yard line. On a second-and-10 at the 30, Thorson took the ball and ran down the left sideline to make it 30-6.
The Nighthawks’ offense was unstoppable all night. They rushed for 284 yards overall. Williams was 7-12 for 114 yards and two touchdowns. He ran for 35 yards and an additional touchdown.
Jake Vartanian took over as the primary ball carrier in the second half and responded with 82 yards on five carries, including touchdown runs of 54 and 4 yards.
“My players have worked very hard on the offensive line,” said Nighthawks’ coach Matt Johnson. “Our staff has worked extremely hard.”
Ironwood Ridge has made it to the state semi-final game, coming within one game of the title game, each of the last two years.
How do they get over the top in 2012?
“We have an emphasis on special teams this year,” Johnson said.
The special teams made their mark against Marana.
John Klass came in and blocked a punt for the Nighthawks in the first quarter that led to a touchdown. Nathan Farmer made all eight of his extra points.
The Tigers’ final score came on the game’s final drive. Domenic Holliday ran for 41 yards on the series, which set up a five-yard touchdown run by Bradley Gonzalez.
“It was a good test,” said Marana coach Andy Litten. “They’re a physical team. Well coached and well prepared.”
How about the special teams for the Tigers?
“Our special teams play is a major focus,” Litten said. “The fake punt didn’t work out.”
The Tigers were called for eight penalties.
“The penalties need to be fixed. We gave away points.” he said.
This Friday, the Tigers will travel to Rincon on Sept. 7, at 7p.m. The Nighthawks will go to Tucson High to take on the Badgers.
“It’ll be a challenge,” Johnson said.
Last year, the Badgers made the playoffs, ending a long playoff drought, in their first season under former Mountain View coach Justin Argraves.
Argraves coached Mountain View in 2011.