Tyler Williams found the end zone anyway he could on Friday night, passing for one touchdown and rushing for three more in the Nighthawks’ defeat of Centennial, 28-24. 

With the victory, Ironwood Ridge moved from a ranking of fourth in the state to second, sitting behind No. 1 ranked Desert Ridge (Mesa).

An early fumble by the Nighthawks put Centennial on the Ironwood 21-yard line, but the Nighthawk defense held the Coyotes to the eight-yard line to force the field goal. 

Down 3-0, Williams wasted little time in putting the Nighthawks on the board.

Under pressure, Williams found wide receiver Julian Figueroa, who sped downfield for a 75-yard gain to put the Nighthawks on the five-yard line. 

After a three-yard gain by running back Anthony Braunreiter, Williams would carry the ball the rest of the way to give Ironwood Ridge a 7-3 advantage.

But Williams was only warming up, and the Nighthawk defense put him in scoring position again after linebacker Scott Simmons recovered a high snap by the Coyotes.

On the Centennial nine-yard line, Braunreiter closed the gap with a gain of eight, and Williams covered the last yard to build a 14-3 lead.

Simmons then struck again on defense, forcing a loss by sacking Centennial’s Tre’von Grant. The Coyotes had to punt, giving the Nighthawks the ball on their own 44-yard line.

Williams connected with wide receiver Jake Matthews along the sideline for a gain of 35 and running back Jake Vartanian added another 11 yards rushing to put the Nighthawks on Centennial’s 15-yard line, where Williams again took over, hurdling over a defender and landing in the end zone for a 21-3 lead.

With the half winding down, Centennial finally found an answer when Grant went to the air, finding Xavier Villanueva for a 25-yard touchdown.

Out of the half, Centennial would close the deficit to four points when an offensive drive led the Coyotes 65 yards downfield. Grant found Jalen Ortiz for a 25-yard touchdown pass to bring the game to 21-17.

The two teams would swap possession through the early minutes of the fourth quarter when, again, the Nighthawk defense continued to haunt the Coyotes when Jake Matthews intercepted a pass by Grant to bring back the Ironwood Ridge offense.

On second and 10 from the Coyotes’ 15-yard line, Williams found Figueroa in the end zone for a 28-17 advantage. 

Centennial responded with an 88-yard touchdown run from Ortiz with six minutes remaining in the half to close the deficit to 28-24. After Ironwood Ridge surrendered to a punt on offense, the Coyotes pushed their way to the Nighthawks’ 46-yard line with 28 seconds remaining. Grant found space and launched downfield, but his pass was intercepted by John Klass, who was brought down with only seven seconds remaining in the game. 

“We tried keeping up the pressure so the QB didn’t have too much time, but I had to have guys back there for that interception, so it was a tough situation,” said Head Coach Matt Johnson.

Williams took a knee to run the clock out, and send the Nighthawks into celebration. 

“This is the biggest win I’ve ever been a part of,” said Williams. “I’m really proud of my guys. We faced adversity, and we bounced back when the odds were against us. It’s only week six, and I can’t stress that enough. By no means is this a state championship game, so we’re going to enjoy this for tonight, and then starting tomorrow, we keep learning.” The Nighthawks will face Mountain View (4-2) on Friday.

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