Nathan Grijalva had a feeling something special was bound to happen when he laced up his high-top cleats before the final home game of his Ironwood Ridge football career.
The senior’s intuition proved prescient in the hours to come. He gashed the Buena Colts defense to the tune of 202 yards and two touchdowns on 36 carries. Grijalva was a one-man wrecking crew for the Nighthawks, who rolled over the Colts, 31-20.
The senior running back opened the night’s scoring midway through the first quarter, when he took a handoff from Octavio Audry-Cobos three yards for his eighth rushing touchdown of the season.
Grijalva chewed his way through the Colts’ defense from there, averaging 5.6 yards per carry, eclipsing the 1,000-yard plateau for the season in the contest. The senior attributed much of his success, and the Nighthawks team total of 439 rushing yards, to his brethren in the trenches.
“It’s all the offensive line,” he said. “Some people took some spots where they don’t want to be and they just clicked. I couldn’t be happier.”
The Nighthawks defeated the Colts, despite completing two-of-six passes for eight yards—with Audry-Cobos doing most of his damage on the ground. The junior quarterback earned 155 yards on 16 carries, before leaving in the game’s second half because of flu-like symptoms, according to IRHS coach Matt Johnson.
Audry-Cobos was replaced by backup Fabian Figueroa, who gained 34 rushing yards and two touchdowns on five carries in the relief effort.
“I’ll tell you what, we overcame a lot of adversity,” Johnson said. “For our kids to just rally and get behind Fabian Figueroa and just have confidence in themselves was really special.”
The Nighthawks’ win propelled them to 5-4 for the season, with a road game at 5A Southern region leader Cienega (8-1, 4-0) at 7 p.m. this Friday.
The contest with the Bobcats will decide who clinches the Southern region, with the Nighthawks having a shot at winning thanks to a tiebreaker.
Johnson believes his team is playing its best football of the season at the right time, which boosts their chances against a solid Bobcats squad.
“I think the biggest thing is to actually keep the kids level-headed,” Johnson said. “Usually when people get freaked out and they get amped up they make mistakes. Make sure they understand it’s about being a brotherhood, having fun, and just playing football.”
Senior wide receiver Andrew Cook, who leads the Nighthawks in receiving yards (561) and receiving touchdowns (8), believes this year’s team has a solid shot at upsetting the Bobcats.
“I just look forward to beating them,” Cook said. “They think they’re the team, but we need to come out next week and we need to capitalize on a win.”
For this year’s senior class, revenge is the name of the game against the Bobcats, coming off last year’s bitter 56-55 loss in overtime last October.
That’s exactly how Grijalva summed up his mindset entering the season finale in Vail, expressing his desire to knock off the Bobcats on their home turf on Friday night.