A week after handing Canyon Del Oro its first regular season loss since 2008, the biggest concern for Ironwood Ridge High School’s football team was suffering a letdown against Marana.
However, a strong start with 23 first-quarter points put that fear to rest as the Ironwood Ridge Nighthawks (2-0) went on to a convincing 51-12 win over the visiting Tigers (0-2) Friday.
“I was worried about a letdown,” said Nighthawk coach Matt Johnson. “We practiced really hard. I was on our kids on Monday and Tuesday.”
Nighthawks’ senior Mitch Fischer opened the game with a 25-yard run up the middle. A couple plays later, quarterback Tyler Williams faked a handoff and kept it, running 29 yards to paydirt.
On the next series, Fischer broke a 30-yard run down to Marana’s 10-yard line, eventually setting up a 7-yard touchdown run by Fischer. A run by Williams on the conversion made it 15-0.
It seemed like nothing could stop the Nighthawks’ running game. For the second consecutive week, they pounded out at least 325 yards on the ground. Fischer was in a perpetual state of readiness, gaining 114 yards on only five carries, and scoring two touchdowns.
“You can’t underestimate your opponent,” he said.
Williams ran for 75 yards and two touchdowns on three carries. Junior running back Anthony Braunreiter gained 52 yards and a touchdown on five carries. The offensive line helped the Nighthawks gain 325 yards on 32 rushes.
“They’re great,” Fischer said about his line. “I expect that from them every game.”
So far, the future looks bright for the Nighthawks. The team has won nine of their last 10 games (if you include the end of last season) and has two impressive wins already this year. The team is ranked No. 16 in Arizona. Still, team members are cautious not to let their current winning streak go to their heads.
“We’ve got a long ways to go,” Johnson said. “We still need to work on some things.”
The only thing that seemed to slow down the Nighthawks Friday night was a brief power outage. A section of the overhead lights went out, as wind emerged, and lightning and rain seemed to be on the horizon. The rain never came, but the game play did stop for about 10 minutes. Although the lights never came back in full force, there was enough light for the game to resume.
A 50-yard touchdown by Fischer gave the Nighthawks a
21-0 lead in the first, and woke up the Tigers’ offense.
Marana sophomore quarterback Ben Honea completed all four of his passes on his next drive.
A 24-yard pass completion to Randy LaFaye put the ball on the Ironwood Ridge 39-yard line. Then, Davon Roebuck caught an 8-yard pass. After a penalty moved the ball down to the 26, Honea hooked up with LaFaye again for a 26-yard touchdown pass.
The extra point failed, and it was 21-6.
“Our front line did well in protecting Honea,” said Marana coach Anthony Coronado.
Honea finished 7 of 19 passes for 108 yards and two touchdowns.
Marana fullback Tanner Morse carried seven times for 26 yards.
Roebuck intercepted a pass to give the ball right back to Marana, but the Tigers’ offense was pinned deep in its own territory and couldn’t escape.
Under pressure, Honea wound up backed up in his end zone; he grounded the ball in the end zone for a safety, which gave the Nighthawks a 23-6 lead.
The Nighthawks’ offense quickly capitalized on the opportunity. Fischer caught a pass, broke several tackles, and went 28 yards down to the Tigers’ 17-yard line. Ironwood’s Braunreiter ran for 16 yards, and then scored on a 1-yard run.
Williams ran for a 50-yard touchdown, and the Nighthawks rolled to a 51-6 halftime lead.
The Tigers could have easily packed it in, especially with all the injuries they’ve already suffered this year.
“We came in banged up,” Coronado said. “We had three or four kids lost (to injury) in the first half.”
The Tigers persevered and, early in the fourth quarter, scored their only touchdown of the second half.
Honea had 8-yard and 7-yard runs. Suddenly, he found Eric Huerta for a 10-yard touchdown pass. Huerta finished with three catches for 34 yards.
“The kids didn’t give up,” Coronado said. “I was proud to coach a group that wants to play football. I just wish we could be healthy.”
Marana will host Rincon this Friday at 7 p.m.
Ridge will play host to Tucson High. Coach Johnson is not taking Tucson lightly.
“Tucson is an explosive team with a lot of speed,” he noted.