When Mitch Fischer rumbled 40 yards for a touchdown, Ironwood Ridge took a 10-0 lead in the second half of its 5A-II football playoff game at Scottsdale Desert Mountain.
The home team came back in the final 12 minutes, capping a long scoring drive when Drew Seaman snuck into the end zone with 22 seconds left, and ending the Nighthawks' season 14-10.
"We were ahead pretty much the whole game," said Coach Matt Johnson, finishing his first year at the Ironwood Ridge helm.
But the Nighthawks couldn't hold on, despite Tyler D'Amore's 241 yards passing.
"These kids did a great job of coming together," Johnson said. "It's a test of character when you start off the season with losses."
Ironwood Ridge was 1-4, then won four of its next five to get into the playoffs. A forfeit boosted the mark to 6-4 before Friday's loss.
"Our seniors banded together and decided they weren't going to give up, they were going to keep fighting," Johnson said. "It comes down to truly senior leadership, senior commitment."
There were 15 seniors on the Nighthawk squad, among them standouts Adrian Brahler, Matt Walter, Alex Banales and Logan Bailey.
"To make the playoffs the first year, to have the kids regroup the second half of the season, was a great thing to be part of," Johnson said.
Soon, the lifting and running resumes.
"We play a tough schedule again," Johnson said. "We'll work hard every day to get better, and do the best we can."