SALPOINTE 30, IRONWOOD RIDGE 14

High school football: Pound for pound the best

Peña, Lancers wear out Nighthawks in battle of city's top two teams
2012-10-27T00:00:00Z 2012-10-27T00:06:13Z High school football: Pound for pound the bestDaniel Berk Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
October 27, 2012 12:00 am  • 

After Johnny Peña's 30th carry, a 13-yard gain straight up the middle, Salpointe Catholic wide receiver Cameron Denson turned to the Ironwood Ridge sideline and told the Nighthawks players and coaches something they all already knew.

"That's all day," Denson shouted. "All day."

He wasn't lying.

Peña rushed for 187 yards on 37 carries and added three touchdowns as Salpointe (10-1) beat visiting Ironwood Ridge 30-14 Friday night in a showdown of Tucson's top two Division II teams.

"The plan was pound, pound, pound all game," Lancers left tackle Travis Fister said. "We felt like we could take care of business if we just ran the ball all game.

"Johnny Peña is an amazing running back, and we just let him go to work."

Peña, a senior, was effective the entire 48 minutes and followed the blocks of Fister and the Lancers' offensive line. The starting unit of Fister, Austin Weaver, Dylan Greenberg, Cody Gibson and Breeon Auzenne had its way with Ironwood Ridge's smaller defensive line.

All total, Salpointe rushed for 303 yards on 61 carries.

"You have to give their offensive line a ton of credit," Ironwood Ridge coach Matt Johnson said. "All year long we knew there would be a matchup where our lack of size would hurt us. They did a great job of executing their game plan.

"A lot of teams have had that game plan but not a lot of them have been able to execute it. Salpointe did."

Ironwood Ridge (9-1) jumped out to an early 7-0 lead after a blocked punt by Scott Simmons set the Nighthawks up at the 4-yard line. One play later, running back Anthony Braunreiter scored.

The Lancers answered later in the quarter when Peña scored his first touchdown from 2 yards. Salpointe missed the extra point and trailed by one.

Peña, though, was just getting started.

He scored again from 4 yards early in the second quarter and then had a 1-yard touchdown plunge late in the quarter to give the Lancers a 20-7 lead at halftime.

Peña, playing his final regular-season home game, had 82 yards on 16 carries in the first half.

"Four years of hard work paid off for him tonight," Salpointe coach Dennis Bene said. "He got stronger as the game went on and wore on their defense. That's Johnny Peña's calling card."

Salpointe extended its lead to 27-7 in the third quarter when quarterback Andrew Cota, who finished with 129 yards passing, found junior tight end Robert Wilson for a 28-yard score.

Nighthawks quarterback Tyler Williams scored from 5 yards with 26 seconds remaining in the third to cut it to 13. But, Ironwood Ridge never got any closer.

Williams finished with 162 yards of total offense. His longest rush was a 33-yard gain up the middle where Denson caught him and prevented him from taking the ball all the way.

Denson played nearly the entire game at safety to help keep Williams in check.

"He was back there in case Tyler broke one, which he did in the first quarter," Bene said. "He's probably the only player in the city who could have caught Tyler there, so it was important for him to be there."

Both teams will find out today what their seed is for the state playoffs, which begin Friday.

The Lancers came into the matchup seeded No. 5 by the AIA, but Bene is hopeful they will shoot up to the top spot with Friday's win over the Nighthawks - the No. 1 seed entering Friday.

"We've won 10 games in a row and we've beaten every team from Arizona we've played," said Bene of his Lancers, which lost to Crespi (Calif.) to start the season. "I would really hope we skyrocket to No. 1.

"I think we deserve it."

On StarNet: See more photos from Friday's Ironwood Ridge-Salpointe and Sabino-Sahuaro high school football games at azstarnet.com/gallery

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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