Ironwood Ridge senior safety Brandon Flores was thinking a lot about Halloween before, and after, the Nighthawks’ playoff game against Sunnyside on Friday.
That is understandable. Oct. 31 was the first meeting between the teams, during which the Blue Devils seemed unstoppable on offense in a fourth-quarter comeback win, 27-24.
Flores did not want that to happen again, at home, with playoff advancement at stake.
Turns out, his play on the field had a lot to say about the game’s outcome.
The senior free safety not only played a role in limiting the Blue Devils to 13 yards on the ground, he and his fellow defenders stifled Sunnyside quarterback Jesus Vega, allowing 203 yards passing, the majority of it on two long passes. Flores also intercepted a pass deep in Ironwood Ridge territory with 5 minutes left in the half, returning the ball to the Nighthawk 20-yard line.
“It felt real good,” said Flores. “It stopped their drive and gave us momentum.”
Flores gave Ironwood Ridge a push on special teams as well, receiving punts and kickoffs, and helping give Ironwood Ridge points as the holder during Nighthawk kick Justin Lasczak’s extra point and field goal attempts.
The senior also recovered Ironwood Ridge’s only fumble of the game, allowing his team to keep possession during a drive late in the second quarter.
“Brandon is just a real savvy kid, and very athletic,” said head coach Gary Minor.
Flores’ contributions helped the Nighthawks keep another thing going: their championship hopes, which will be tested when they play in semifinal action against unbeaten Peoria Centennial in Phoenix on Dec. 5.
“I haven’t played them yet, I just want come out and play hard, give it everything I’ve got,” said Flores.
Whether or not the Nighthawks win in two weeks, Flores’ Ironwood Ridge football experience has been a special one.
“I love the coaches and my friends,” he said. “This is the best program out there.”