The Ironwood Ridge Nighthawks traded barbs, and points, with the Millennium Tigers on a sweltering late August evening.
Friday’s contest proved competitive early on, with the Tigers matching an opening Nighthawks scoring drive with a long touchdown pass of their own. Millennium pounced on the momentum, scoring two more touchdowns to take a 20-7 lead midway through the game’s second quarter.
Ironwood Ridge fought back, with senior running back Nathan Grijalva scampering 31 yards for a score to cut Millennial’s lead to seven, 20-13, with six-and-a-half left in the second.
The Tigers couldn’t be stopped, with backup quarterback Zareq Smith hitting a 19-yard score to give the team a 14-point lead just after halftime.
Junior quarterback Octavio Audry-Cobos did his best to keep the Nighthawks alive in the game’s final stanza, tossing a 42-yard touchdown to senior Andrew Cook for the pair’s second touchdown of the night with roughly three minutes left in the fourth.
That score would prove to be a case of too little, too late for Coach Matt Johnson’s young men, as the Tigers were able to methodically drive the ball downfield on their final drive, effectively killing the clock and IRHS’ shot at a comeback.
Johnson praised the effort put in by Cook, who had two receiving touchdowns, and Grijalva, who scored a rushing touchdown, saying the pair did a great job of leading the team offensively.
“We’re just a couple of details away from being on the right side of this tonight,” Johnson said. “They’re great seniors, love them, and I think we still have a lot of season ahead of us. This is week two, so we’ll see where it ends up come week 10.”
Johnson also heaped praise on Audry-Cobos, despite an up-and-down evening that included highlight reel highs (the two long passing touchdowns) and several mistakes, including two interceptions.
“Octavio’s a warrior,” Johnson said. “He did a great job. He’s learning and it’s one of those things where you can see every quarter, he gets a little bit better, and I thought he did a great job tonight.”
Johnson’s team has six days to prepare for Gilbert’s Campo Verde High School, who they’ll face on the road this Friday.
The longtime Nighthawks coach expects a battle from the Coyotes, with Max Ragsdale’s team entering the contest with an unblemished 3-0 record.
“They’re obviously going to watch the film, they’re going to blitz us, they’re going to try and isolate some people on defense and we got have to improve,” he said. “It’s one of those things. It’s a long season and every time we practice, we’re going to get a little bit better.”
The Nighthawks will be hard-pressed to stop Coyotes’ senior back Matt Leazier, who racked up 351 rushing yards in the team’s first two games of the year.
Johnson hopes that the team’s brutal non-conference schedule, which includes upcoming games against teams like Centennial of Glendale, will get his players into postseason form come conference play.
“We’re always trying to play playoff teams,” Johnson said. “Mountain View, we think they’re going to be a playoff team. These guys should be a playoff team. We’re always trying to play good teams.”