The Ironwood Ridge Nighthawks aren’t willing to settle for anything less than an appearance at the Division II state tournament this football season.

Last season, the Nighthawks were only one game shy of doing just that, falling to Cienega High School 24-21 in a tough-fought battle led by then senior Mitch Fischer.

The Nighthawks finished the 2011 season 10-3.

Despite the loss of the star running back in Fischer, now playing at Pima Community College, Ironwood hasn’t lost any of its fighting spirit. The team has united more than than ever to compensate for Fischer’s departure.

“We’ve challenged our individual players to each pick up something extra to make up for it,” said fourth-year Head Coach Matt Johnson. “No one player can make up for the loss of Mitch. He’s one of the best players I’ve ever coached.”

The running attack for the Nighthawks appeared strong opening night on Aug. 24 when Anthony Braunreither took over the reigns. Braunreither had a good first game, racking up a combined 111 yards in running and receiving.

No doubt the arrival of senior Cris Thorson will help fill any void. Thorson, who spent three years as Mountain View’s standout player in a variety of offensive and defensive positions, will graduate a Nighthawk after transferring schools this fall.

As slot receiver and cornerback, Thorson will work closely with Nighthawks’ veteran Tyler Williams, whose speed and agility will be put to use on all sides of the ball at quarterback and safety.

“These guys are great leaders in a group of seniors who all understand that sweat, mixed with a great attitude, equals success,” said Johnson.

Johnson said amidst the various changes leading into the regular season, there is another that has forced the team to adjust its game plan.

“We’re smaller than normal, so we have to execute more accurately,” he said. “We are putting far more emphasis on technique this year. Our biggest philosophy is to work harder than anybody, and balance all that hard work out with having fun out there on the field.”

The Nighthawks faced rival Canyon Del Oro High School on Aug. 24, winning 36-0.

This week, the Nighthawks will look to go 2-0, traveling to take on the Marana Tigers on Aug. 31.


2012 Nighthawks Schedule

Date    Opponent    

8/24     vs Canyon Del Oro

8/31     @ Marana

9/7       @ Tucson

9/14     @ Cholla

9/21     @ Marcos de Niza

9/28     vs Centennial

10/5     @ Mountain View

10/12    vs Flowing Wells

10/19    vs Catalina Foothills

10/26    @ Salpointe Catholic     

All games begin at 7 p.m.

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