The Ironwood Ridge High School Nighthawks fired off a warning shot to the rest of Southern Arizona in front of a raucous crowd last Thursday night.
That squad, helmed by first-year starting quarterback Octavio Audry-Cobos sent quite a message, with the tall junior gunslinger tossing two touchdowns in a 42-14 victory over the Mountain Lions on the road.
Audry-Cobos found senior wideout Andrew Cook several times during the season opener, with the coup de grace coming in the contest’s final minutes—when Audry-Cobos found Cook for a beautiful 46-yard strike to cement the Nighthawks’ victory.
IRHS Head Coach Matt Johnson praised the 6 foot, 4 inch Audry-Cobos for his leadership in his first varsity start at quarterback, calling the junior an electric signal-caller.
“Octavio’s electric, he’s the star,” Johnson said. “There’s a reason why he’s being recruited by Pac-12 schools, because he’s an absolute special football player.”
Johnson wasn’t surprised by the strong performance that Cook put in, calling him an explosive play-maker in all facets of the game.
“We’re trying to find different ways to get him the ball because he’s so explosive,” Johnson said. “He’s a great young man.”
Cook described how it felt to score twice in his final opening game of his high school career, breaking off a 73-yard rushing score in the game’s fourth quarter in addition to his long receiving score.
Thursday’s victory was extra sweet for the senior, given last year’s 28-23 defeat to the Mountain Lions.
“Like I said over the summer, we worked hard, we kept our heads up and we just wanted revenge against them,” Cook said.
Cook waxed poetic about Audry-Cobos’ skillset Thursday, expressing his excitement at the junior’s success against a vaunted Lions defense.
“I’m so excited,” Cook said. “[Octavio’s] one of my favorite people ever. It’s so great to see him having success in his varsity debut at quarterback because he was here last year.”
Johnson believes his team is far from perfect on both sides of the ball, but said he’s happy with the effort his players put in for the first game of the season.
“Sometimes things fall your way and you get a little bit lucky and you’re there to get that ball,” Johnson said. “We’ve got a lot of stuff to work on, but we’ve got some potential. We’ll see what happens, but it’s definitely a good start.”
Licking their wounds
Last Thursday’s defeat was a tough pill to swallow for longtime Mountain View coach Clarence “Bam” McRae.
McRae, who’s guided the Lions to the playoffs in each of the last two seasons, knows what his team is capable of, and didn’t sound the alarm after a rough first game.
“It just lets you know where you’re at and the things that you need to work on in order to improve for your next opportunity to play,” McRae said. “We came out and definitely thought we had a good game plan going in. But Ironwood Ridge, they did a great job of executing and putting themselves in position to take advantage of our mistakes.”
McRae’s squad started well on Thursday, with sophomore quarterback Hayden Parson scoring on a short rushing play to equal the score at 7 in the second quarter.
The lanky sophomore had his share of peaks and valleys in his first varsity appearance, including a wayward pass that Max Vernon of Ironwood Ridge intercepted and returned for a 24-yard touchdown.
That score put the Nighthawks ahead 20-7, giving them a cushion they’d never surrender on a relatively humid evening on the north side of Tucson.
McRae thought Parson played well against the Nighthawks but expressed his disappointment in the protection provided by the team’s offensive line.
“I thought he did well, you know, but sometimes when you’re getting pressured down the pipe like that, it’s hard to make the throws you need,” he said. “But he’s going to be a special one as time develops. He threw some good balls. We got some passes out there and people will be talking about him here real soon, but it just takes time.”
Clarence’s son, Calib, expressed a similar level of confidence in his team’s ability to bounce back in the coming weeks from Thursday’s defeat.
The senior linebacker and receiver believes the Lions’ best days are ahead of them, with two weeks to prepare for Higley, who they’ll face at 7 p.m. on Aug. 31.
“Last year, we lost an early one, the first game of the year, and we rolled off seven wins in a row,” he said. “So, we’ve just got to preach every day that we’ve got to be aggressive, come out even harder, compete harder, and just work as a team better.”
Both teams have a bye week coming up, with the Nighthawks playing Millennium at home on Aug. 31, while the Lions face the Knights at home the same night.