Swing by any of Ironwood Ridge High School’s football practices and you’ll likely see the abundant energy of rising senior Octavio Audry-Cobos.
Audry-Cobos thrived on both sides of the ball for the Nighthawks as a junior last season, accumulating 776 rushing and 760 passing yards in 10 games. The 6 foot 1 inch athlete also finished the year with a tackle for loss and a sack on defense, showing his versatility on both sides of the ball.
First-year coach James Hardy Jr. has high hopes for Audry-Cobos this season, given the success he had a year ago. The Nighthawks new coach is using the team’s summer practices to find the best place for the young man, on both sides of the ball.
The goal for Hardy Jr. and his staff is to allow their senior athlete to find the position that allows him to have the most success on the gridiron.
“[Octavio’s] biggest area of growth is going to be on the defensive side of the ball,” Hardy Jr. said. “People know him, and his situation and he’s more highly recruited on the defensive end, so he’s got to get more reps there.”
Hardy Jr. said that Audry-Cobos will still play a large role in the team’s offense, however, given his unique assortment of talents on that side of the ball.
“He’s an athlete, and I truly, firmly believe that my athletes need to get the ball one way or another,” Hardy Jr. said. “So, he’ll get the ball on offense. Where? I can’t tell you that right now.”
Audry-Cobos said he’s been thrilled with the system that his new coaching staff has put in place, saying the new regime fits his playing style a lot better.
He’s confident that his head coach can guide the Nighthawks back to the playoffs once again this fall, a year after going 6-5 in former coach Matt Johnson’s final year at the school.
“What excited me most is that we’ll be able to learn under someone else, instead of the same thing over and over again,” Audry-Cobos said. “We get to learn a whole new scheme and everything, before we finish high school.”
Audry-Cobos showed off a skill set that dazzled at times a year ago, throwing for a high of 204 yards and three touchdowns in the team’s 29-12 win over Sunnyside on Oct. 12.
He also was a constant threat running the football, eclipsing the 100-yard mark twice during the 2018 season.
His coup de gras in the running game was his 16 carry, 155-yards outing against Sierra Vista’s Buena High School in the Nighthawk’s penultimate game of the regular season.
That performance, which sparked Ironwood Ridge to a 31-20 win over the visiting Colts, showed Audry-Cobos’ untapped potential on the offensive side of the ball.
Fast-forward eight months, and Audry-Cobos and his teammates are putting in the conditioning work necessary to make sure last year’s success wasn’t a fluke.
Audry-Cobos is confident that he’ll take a step forward in his on-field evolution, thanks to the experience he’s put in on both sides of the ball.
“I have more experience now, because during my sophomore year, I play on defense mostly,” he said. “So, now I get to see how the quarterback can see the game, which can help me on the defensive side. And when I’m playing offense, I can see what a linebacker is going to do when I’m doing certain routes or anything like that.”
It’s that dedication to the sport that has earned the trust of Hardy Jr. and his staff during the team’s spring and summer workouts.
Hardy Jr. believes this year’s senior class has the type of commitment that can be a harbinger of success in the future.
“This group of guys have bought in to what we’re doing here at Ironwood Ridge,” he said. “They’ve bought into the new coaching staff; they’ve bought into the way that we’re doing things, and they’ve embraced it and are excited about it. And I believe that once we get kids to buy into things, the sky’s the limit.”
Fellow senior Cameron Drescher, who will man the defensive secondary alongside Audry-Cobos this fall, shared a similar viewpoint.
To Drescher, this year’s senior class has a chance to reach untapped potential, thanks to the efforts of experienced players like Audry-Cobos.
“In my opinion, I think what’s special is just the bond that we have together,” Drescher said. “I mean, I’ve been on varsity the last two years on defense and I haven’t had this kind of bond with my team that I have this year. I think it’s special, that bond that we have.”
That teamwide buy-in is crucial, considering the Nighthawks’ senior-heavy roster, with 30 such players on this year’s team.
Audry-Cobos said this year’s team has taken extra motivation from the doubt that’s been cast by those outside the program.
Much of that doubt, according to the senior, stems from losing Johnson as the team’s coach after a 10-year run in which Ironwood Ridge never missed the playoffs.
Audry-Cobos is confident that Hardy Jr. is the right man for the job, however, and that the Nighthawks will take the state by storm this fall.
“People should know that this team has not given up,” he said. “Just because we lost coach Johnson doesn’t mean that all of our motivation is gone. We have a new coach, and we want to make him proud and make ourselves proud.”
Audry-Cobos said the team is amped for their season opener against Johnson’s new team, the Mountain View Lions, who they host at 7 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 23.
The main stumbling block for the players is to not allow emotion to get in the way of their preparation.
Audry-Cobos believes the team has done a good job of focusing on the task at-hand, which is to get bigger and stronger each day.
If they can accomplish that, then there is no ceiling to what the team can accomplish, according to Audry-Cobos.
He’s confident that the team can do just that, and that he’ll take on a much more boisterous role in firing up his teammates this summer so they can enter that first game firing on all cylinders.
“I have to step up and lead my team this year, so we can succeed from the get-go,” Audry-Cobos said. “We just need to settle down, be smart, focus on our game and capitalize on every chance that we can get in order to beat them.”