Ironwood Ridge could be excused for looking past Catalina Foothills, and thinking about their season finale at Salpointe Catholic.
After all, Catalina Foothills are winless in 2012. The Lancers (9-1) are rated #2 in Southern Arizona, while the Nighthawks (9-0) are rated #1.
The Nighthawks opening drive took them down the field, but an interception stopped the drive and made you wonder about their focus.
But these concerns were short-lived, as the Nighthawks proceeded to score on their next five possessions en route to a 56-0 win.
Quarterback Tyler Williams opened the scoring with a 57-yard run on the Nighthawks’ second series.
Williams was hit in the middle of the field, then he spun around, stayed on his feet, and darted down the left sideline all the way into the end zone. After a pass from Tyler Berson to Kai Ellingboe, it was 8-0 Nighthawks.
Williams didn’t think the Nighthawks took the Falcons lightly.
“Our coaches do a good job keeping us focused,” Williams said. “Our line does a great job. They do all the dirty work.”
Williams completed 10 of his 11 passes for 67 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Always a running threat, Williams ran for 67 yards and two touchdowns.
Anthony Braunreiter gained 79 yards rushing on only seven carries, and scored three touchdowns, before being removed once the rout was on.
Jake Vartanian took over and gained another 61 yards on five carries, and scored on a 50-yard touchdown run.
A 28-yard touchdown run by Braunreiter made it 15-0 on the final play of the first quarter. An interception by defensive back Brandon Martinez led to another touchdown run by Williams.
Interceptions were a common weapon at the disposal of the Nighthawks last Friday. Cole Kuglitsch returned an interception 23 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter.
Michael Volk and Sam Ross also had picks, as the Nighthawks excelled on both sides of the ball.
“We worked hard,” said Nighthawks coach Matt Johnson. “We try to respect every opponent.”
“Their injury situation wore them down.”
The Nighthawks defense held the Falcons to 38 total yards of offense.
A five-yard touchdown run by Braunreiter made it 36-0 in the second. After stopping Foothills on a three-and-out, the Nighthawks got the ball back and it took them only three plays to score. Williams completed a 13-yard pass to John Klass. Then, Julian Figueroa ran 31 yards down to the 17 of Foothills. Then, Williams hooked up with Braunreiter for a 17-yard touchdown pass.
“We wanted to minimize the mistakes,” Williams said.
“We worked hard on our preventive package,” Johnson said. “We hadn’t used it as much.”
So was anything gained by this tune-up for Salpointe?
“It’s all about the playoffs,” Johnson said. “Not the regular season.”
The Nighthawks have come close, but just come up short of the state title game in each of the last two years. The Salpointe game will be the perfect appetizer to prepare the Nighthawks for the main course the week after, as the Nighthawks will certainly be hosting a first-round playoff game.
What kind of threat does Salpointe pose?
“They have so many great players over there,” Johnson said. “Cota (Andrew), Denson (Cameron) and some freshman phenoms. We have to play our best game to compete with them.
They’re well stocked at every position.”
Game time will start on Friday at 7 p.m. at Salpointe.
“When we play as many great teams as we have (on the schedule),” said Williams. “It makes us ready.”
“Salpointe is a great team,” Williams said. “We have to minimize our mistakes. Whoever makes the fewest mistakes will win.”