Don't follow signs' arrows; look for lights - Tucson Local Media: Sports

Don't follow signs' arrows; look for lights

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Posted: Tuesday, August 31, 2010 11:00 pm

At 6:30 p.m. Friday, the traffic on Naranja in Oro Valley was backed up to … La Cañada, far, far away from the gleaming, crowned, impossibly green football field where defending champion Canyon Del Oro and Ironwood Ridge would do battle at 7.

Frustrated fans parked roadside, and walked. Or ran, rather than miss the kickoff. A Long Real Estate agent picked up open house signs at La Cholla, their arrows pointing away from the game. Not this night. For these people, all arrows aim toward Ironwood's house.

There may have been 5,000 people at the game, yet the enormous field-side parking lot still had spaces 35 minutes from La Cañada. It was a quick walk under pastel skies on a lovely evening, the Tortolitas, Tucsons and Catalinas filling horizons, to see Dorado star Ka'Deem Carey avoid the Nighthawk pursuit, then deliver a hit on a closing defender. Oh, Ka'Deem, so quick, so fast, so strong. A special talent, worth the price of admission by himself.

Ironwood Ridge, under second-year head coach Matt Johnson, kinda sorta keeps Ka'Deem bottled up. Contained? Out of the end zone, at least. The Nighthawks take advantage of a CDO turnover, the frenetic-footed Mitch Fischer rolling 55 yards to first and goal, then scoring for a 6-0 lead. The home stands erupt.

CDO responds. So does the Ironwood Ridge flag team, and its marching band. As the clock moves toward halftime, young people in uniforms, if not pads, gather beyond the playing surface, the girls stretching, the drummers and keyboard players warming up, their attention not on the game but on their game. This is their night to play before thousands, too.

Not that band parents and siblings are watching. They're working the concession stands, and it's a good night to do so. Pizza. Pop. Cotton candy. Much-needed funds for activities.

At halftime, both teams have to walk the same path up a small hill to the locker room. The Nighthawks wait, allowing CDO to go first. Classy. This night, there's no blatant poor sportsmanship, no taunting. Young men give opponents a hand up and a pat on the butt. They're competing like mad, but they're not angry. Really good to see.

On the field, athletes impress with individual moments. The Dorados' Jesse Caldwell, a 6-4, 262-pound football player, blows through the Ironwood Ridge line to block a punt through the end zone. Missed assignment? Maybe, but Caldwell startles with his quickness. (An observation: Yes, CDO has Ka'Deem and skill-position talent, but it's the kids up front who could become very special.)

Fischer, Ironwood's relentless running back, blows through for 85 yards, a touchdown and a 13-8 lead. The crowd goes crazy. So, too, does a refrigerator of an Arizona linebacker, Jake Fischer, Mitch's older brother. "Woooooooo!" Jake screams on the sideline.

What's it feel like to see your little brother run for a long score? "I'm proud," says Jake, who's due to start for the Wildcats this weekend. "At his age, he's so much faster than I was. He's a real running back. He's just balling out right now, and it's fun. I'm proud of him."

CDO place kicker Tilghman Harvey booms every kickoff, and nails his three field goal attempts. One more weapon in the Dorado arsenal.

Tyler D'Amore, Ironwood Ridge's three-year starter at quarterback, eludes the CDO rush, runs left, then throws on the run to an open receiver. That's hard to do, run left and throw with your right arm, but D'Amore's done this before. His leadership is apparent.

"Our house!" the Ironwood kids yell. Yet CDO is settling in, and first-time Dorado starting quarterback Jason McBrayer demonstrates leadership of his own. CDO wins, 26-13. "Undefeated!" the CDO side calls. Yes, but it's still 1-0.

"All 49 of us got a victory tonight," CDO Coach Dustin Peace tells his team afterward. "We're going to be pretty lethal when we put it all together." He's right. Ironwood's going to be just fine, too.

The 40-minute wait to leave the parking lot tells you why people park on the roadside. But it's been worth it. Let's do it again next year, Oro Valley, at CDO's house. Add in a parade, and a big community tailgate party, and you've got a flat-out celebration.

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HS Schedule


Aug. 21

Hamilton @ Ironwood Ridge

Rio Rico @ Marana

Catalina Foothills @ Desert Edge

Aug. 28

CDO @ Gilbert

Mountain View @ La Joya Community

Pueblo @ Catalina Foothills

Pusch Ridge @ Bisbee

Sep. 4

CDO @ Tucson High Magnet School

Westwood @ Ironwood Ridge

Horizon @ Mountain View

Marana @ Pueblo

Benson @ Pusch Ridge

Catalina Foothills @ Cienega

Sep. 11

CDO @ Sahuaro

Salpointe @Ironwood Ridge

Mountain View @ Sunnyside

Arcadia @ Marana

McClintock @ Catalina Foothills

Pusch Ridge @ Combs

Sep. 18

Cienega @ CDO

Ironwood Ridge @ Tucson High

Buena @ Mountain View

Marana @ Tempe

Catalina Foothills @ Rincon/University

Pusch Ridge @ Amphi

Sep. 25

Buena @ CDO

Sahuaro @ Ironwood Ridge

Mountain View at Cienega

Marana @ Catalina Foothills

Cholla @ Pusch Ridge

Oct. 2

CDO @ Ironwood Ridge

Queen Creek @ Mountain View

Nogales @ Marana

Catalina Foothills @ Safford

Sahuarita @ Pusch Ridge

Oct. 9

Poston Butte @ CDO

Ironwood Ridge @ Queen Creek

Shadow Ridge @ Mountain View

Marana @ Desert View

Nogales @ Catalina Foothills

Pusch Ridge @ Flowing Wells

Oct 16

CDO @ Queen Creek

Ironwood Ridge @ Marcos de Niza

Mountain View @ Poston Butte

Rincon/University @ Marana

Catalina Foothills @ Sabino

Pueblo @ Pusch Ridge

Oct. 23

Mountain View @ CDO

Poston Butte @ Ironwood Ridge

Marana @ Safford

Desert View @ Catalina Foothills

Walden Grove @ Pusch Ridge

Oct. 30

CDO @ Campo Verde 

Ironwood Ridge @ Mountain View

Sabino @ Marana

Pusch Ridge @ Rio Rico

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