Ironwood Ridge took no prisoners against the a winless Marana Friday night, blanking the hometown Tigers, 47-0.
First-year Ironwood Ridge coach James Hardy Jr. said the Nighthawks, who improved to 4-3 with the victory, wanted revenge after last year’s bitter 20-13 loss to the Tigers.
His team left no doubt on Friday, recovering from a sluggish start to bury Marana thanks to three rushing touchdowns by senior running back Brandon Barrios.
Hardy praised the effort his team showed all night, finishing the job to earn a third-straight win.
“The theme tonight is that we finished," Hardy said. "We didn’t come out here and not give our best effort. had a bit of extra motivation, they lost the game last year and I wasn’t there, they were motivated. So, they came out and they completed their task. They knew what they had to do, and they accomplished their goal.”
Hardy’s team assumed control in the contest’s second quarter, when the team scored 26 points.
The key to putting away the Tigers on their home field was the Nighthawks' ability to dominate the game on all fronts, according to Hardy.
“I’m proud...that’s a team effort," he said. "That’s offense, defense, special teams—and that’s all our guys included. All of our guys got a chance to play and get on the field and I’m proud of the team effort. We came out, and we had a goal that we accomplished, we went 1-0 this week, and we got the W.”
Barrios said the team’s recent run of success stems from their ability to thrive in all facets of the game.
“I think our team’s on a roll," Barrios said. "Our offensive line’s getting after it, our defense is lights out and we’re starting to pick up our run game and our pass game."
Barrios, who leads the Nighthawks with 11 rushing touchdowns in seven games this season, said his performance is part of a team-wide push for excellence.
The senior believes the Nighthawks’ best days are ahead of them, but knows there’s much work to be done in the team’s final three regular season contests.
“I’m only as good as my team right now," Barrios said. "As long as our team’s on a roll, I’m going to keep doing well. If we go down, I go down. I’m just going to give it everything that I have. This is my senior season, it’s passing by me, and I’m hopefully trying to lead my team to a state championship.”
Hardy said earning victories in the team’s final regular season contests, against Sunnyside, Buena and Cienega, will require the Nighthawks to clean up their approach. He knows that beating all three teams is a virtual must to ensure a spot in the 16-team 5A playoffs, so there’s little room for error down the stretch.
The key to doing that is to keep things simple, Hardy said.
"We have to play our brand of football," he said. "We have to be sound and efficient on offense and be physical and create havoc in the backfield. If we keep doing what we’ve been doing and keep tweaking and working on the mistakes that we’ve had then I think that it gives us a chance."
A long fall
While Hardy and his players basked in another Friday night filled with glory, it was a much different story for the hometown Marana Tigers.
The harsh reality of staring down a seven-game losing streak is not lost on second-year coach Louie Ramirez, who heaped praise on his players for not quitting in a tough loss.
“All I've asked is that these kids get better each and every week," he said. "They have done that."
The Tigers continue their quest next Friday against Cienega at home at 7 p.m., while the Nighthawks host Sunnyside.
The key to returning the Tigers to prominence, according to Ramirez, is a mixture of confidence and care, making sure his youthful roster knows that there will be better days on the horizon.
“I'm proud of our guys, I'm proud of our program,” Ramirez said. “I think that if we can continue to grow, moving forward, I think we'll be just fine.”