After a month of play, high school football teams have hit the gridiron hard. Ironwood Ridge is leading the pack with a 4-0 record, while Canyon Del Oro is climbing the ranks after a tough start, and Mountain View is turning some heads early.

Ironwood Ridge

Ironwood Ridge, with offensive leaders Tyler Williams and Mitch Fischer, is making the statement it wants to win state. The Nighthawks are getting better with each passing week, having outscored opponents 332-177 in the first month of action.

Team members are averaging 282.8 rushing yards per game, amassing 1,131 yards to date. Fischer leads the pack with 538 yards, followed by Williams with 335 yards.

However, while the Nighthawks may be soaring, Coach Matt Johnson remains clear in his message to stay focused week after week.

After the 49-0 victory over Tucson High on Sept. 9, Johnson said the ultimate goal is a state championship. His coaches and staff work to keep egos in check every Monday and Tuesday at practice.

Those egos will need to be checked as some of the season’s toughest opponents are still come.

On Friday, the Nighthawks will host Tempe’s Marcos de Niza, which stands at 3-1.

The team will close the season against Tucson powerhouse Salpointe Catholic.

Will the Nighthawks’ running game continue to carry the varsity team to lopsided victories? Only time will tell, but for now, the Nighthawks are flying high.

Mountain View

The Mountain Lions started the 2011 season with a big question mark. With Larry Branson taking over as the third head coach in three seasons, and low morale among fans and the team, it was hard to picture the Mountain Lions starting out 3-1.

Players agree Branson has changed the attitude on the team. Fans are showing more excitement, and junior quarterback Cris Thorson is generating plenty of discussion.

Thorson turned plenty of heads when the Mountain Lions upset Canyon Del Oro 14-7 in overtime on Sept. 2, and has emerged as a defensive star.

With a quarterback rating of 119, Thorson has completed 24 of 39 passes for 345 yards. The junior also has 161 rushing yards so far this season.

The team suffered its first loss of the season to Salpointe Catholic last week, but already has matched last year’s total wins. With six weeks left to play, team members are hungry for more.

Will the Mountain Lions continue to improve and become a contender come playoff time?

One game the Mountain Lions will likely focus on is the match against Tucson High on Sept. 30.

This game will have plenty of emotion as former head coach Justin Argraves returns to the Mountain Lion field, where he coached for only one season before moving on to Tucson High.

Canyon Del Oro

The Dorados also entered the new season with plenty of unanswered questions. So far, CDO has received mixed results, with a 2-2 record.

The Dorados struggled out of the gates, losing 28-7 to Ironwood Ridge in the opener, and losing in overtime to Mountain View 14-7 on Sept. 2.

Since the start, the Dorados have strung together a couple wins, defeating Chavez 28-27 and Williams Field 40-21.

Emerging as the team’s senior leader is Blake Martinez, who committed to Stanford University prior to the start of the season.

So far, Martinez has amassed 107 yards rushing, 162 yards receiving, an interception on defense and six touchdowns.

Just like Ironwood Ridge, the Dorados have some tough games ahead, with Salpointe Catholic coming on Sept. 30.

Will the Dorados continue to improve? Will the offense find their identity before it’s too late? Time will tell.

Marana and Pusch Ridge

If anyone is struggling in the northwest region, it’s the Marana Tigers and Pusch Ridge Christian Academy.

Both teams have yet to win a game this year, and they are young teams with tough schedules.

While the teams are improving from week to week, the question remains, will they get good enough fast enough to move up in the standings?

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