The Ironwood Ridge Nighthawk - no doubt frustrated from repeated lightning delays and a 17-7 halftime deficit - scored 28 points in the third quarter en route to defeating the Liberty Lions on Friday night.
Liberty jumped out to an early 7-0 lead after quarterback Tyler Wyatt broke free for a 72-yard touchdown carry in the first play of the game.
In their next offensive drive, the Lions utilized their running game effectively, driving to the Nighthawks’ 14-yard line, where Wyatt connected with wide receiver Gage Lytle to put the Lions up 14-0.
The reigning D-II state champion Nighthawks, who lost all but one starter to graduation last year, struggled to find any offensive rhythm until late in the first quarter.
In a 77-yard drive, Ironwood Ridge answered with a running game of its own via tailback Cole McLafferty. From the Lions’ one-yard line, McLafferty finished that push and put the Nighthawks on the board.
Liberty closed out the half with a 37-yard field goal to build a 17-7 lead.
The Nighthawks had a while to discuss things after a 45-minute lightning delay prolonged the beginning of the third quarter.
But when the third quarter did come, the Nighthawks were ready.
It was again McLafferty who would start things off, returning Liberty's kickoff to the Lions' 44-yard line, and Vartanian would finish things off with a one-yard score to make it 17-14.
The Lions answered right back when Wyatt went 74 yards for the score.
But it was the night of Vartanian and McLafferty. McLafferty scored on a five-yard run, and after Liberty failed to convert on offense, Vartanian struck again for the Nighthawks on an 18-yard rushing touchdown to give the Nighthawks a 28-24 advantage.
Liberty regained the lead soon thereafter on a 65-yard score, but Vartanian and McLafferty would each add another touchdown to give the Nighthawks a 42-31 lead.
Wyatt looked to even things up, however, after he knocked in a field goal, and soon after connected with receiver Gage Lytle for a 44-yard score
The Nighthawks ahead 42-40, Liberty's two-point conversion attempt failed and Ironwood Ridge collected its first win of the season.