For the first time since 2006, the Ironwood Ridge Nighthawks defeated the Canyon Del Oro Dorados in the inner-district showdown to open the 2011 high school football season Friday night.
In a strategic ground attack, the Nighthawks ran through gaping holes in the Dorados’ defense all night. Led by junior quarterback Tyler Williams and senior tailback Mitch Fischer, the Nighthawks ran for 383 yards.
Coming prepared for action was the key to the Nighthawks’ success. Williams said they started preparing for this game last spring by watching game film from the state championship where the Dorados lost to Saguaro 41-34.
“Hard work paid off. This offense had the mentality that we were going to run it all night,” said Williams. “I have to hand it to the offensive line. They played a great game. There was a hole that opened up on every play.”
Williams rushed for 128 yards and two touchdowns, while Fischer led the attack with 180 yards and two touchdowns. Anthony Braunreiter added another 61 yards.
Nighthawks head coach Matt Johnson credited the team’s offensive coordinator Doug Braunreiter for the victory.
“He put endless hours into this game plan, and the kids executed it,” he said. “Our kids are slowly getting the confidence they need to play at this high level.”
In the first half, it appeared obvious that both teams were playing in a season opener. They were rusty on offense, and working to gain momentum on defense.
While the Nighthawks recovered in the second half, CDO never found a rhythm.
The Nighthawks drew first blood in the first quarter when Fischer jetted outside the tackles for a 25-yard touchdown.
CDO answered right back when new quarterback Cooper Smith threw a 40-yard strike to Josh Brown with 1:05 left in the opening quarter.
Brown kept the Dorados alive in the first half, tying the game at 7, and having two big runbacks on special teams.
In the second half, it was all Nighthawks, as the offense went on to score 21 unanswered points.
With 7:29 in the third, Fischer barreled his way through the middle of the Dorados’ defense for the 14-yard touchdown. With a missed extra point, the Nighthawks took a 13-7 lead.
With 1:56 left in the third, Williams capped off a nine-play drive, scoring on a 13-yard keeper.
Williams pounded in the two-point conversion to go up 21-7.
Williams got his second touchdown in the fourth, running 13 yards on the right-side sweep for another score, capping off the night’s scoring to give the Nighthawks a 28-7 victory.
After the game, Johnson had only a few words for the players, which included the barking orders to get over to the sidelines and show appreciation to the stands of enthusiastic football fans who showed up for the Oro Valley showdown.
In the end, Johnson called the showdown a “pride game.”
“Their goal is to win a state championship, and our goal is to win a state championship,” he said. “All this was is a game in August. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see them again, and we better be ready to play.”