Division II state football championship

Division II state football championship: Ironwood Ridge 27, Peoria Centennial 3: I-Ridge captures title

Nighthawks dominate Centennial for first state football crown
2012-11-25T00:00:00Z 2012-11-25T17:53:53Z Division II state football championship: Ironwood Ridge 27, Peoria Centennial 3: I-Ridge captures titleDaniel Berk Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
November 25, 2012 12:00 am  • 

TEMPE - The day began quietly.

Ironwood Ridge arrived at Sun Devil Stadium on a charter bus more than two hours before kickoff.

One by one, the Nighthawks got off the bus with visions of winning the first state football championship in school history.

In their way was three-time state champion Peoria Centennial.

It didn't matter.

The night ended in a celebration.

The Nighthawks beat Centennial 27-3 Saturday night to claim the Division II state championship.

"This is an unbelievable feeling," Ironwood Ridge quarterback Tyler Williams said. "You always talk about what you're going to do if you win the state championship, and I have no idea what to do with myself right now."

They won the game just like they won the majority of the ones before it - by playing mistake-free football and forcing their opponent into all kinds of miscues.

"We knew since June that we had a team good enough to win a state championship," I-Ridge senior Jake Matthews said. "All the work we put in was about having this moment right here. We knew we could do it."

Centennial had the football for more than 10 of the 12 minutes in the first quarter but couldn't produce points.

Despite running 19 more plays than the Nighthawks in the first, the Coyotes had nothing to show for it, leaving the door open for Matt Johnson's squad.

Centennial's Joe Navarro hit a field goal 52 seconds into the second quarter for the first points of the game to give the Coyotes a 3-0 lead.

The Nighthawks went three-and-out on the ensuing possession, but Centennial's Xavier Villanueva fumbled Julian Figueroa's punt and I-Ridge's Clay Allen recovered the ball at the Centennial 25-yard line.

Three plays later, Tyler Williams found John Klass for a 24-yard score to give the Nighthawks a 7-3 lead.

They never gave it back.

The score remained 7-3 at half, but it turns out the Nighthawks were just getting started.

Running back Anthony Braunreiter scored an 8-yard touchdown on Ironwood Ridge's opening drive of the third quarter to make it 14-3.

The drive took more than five minutes and it continued to steer the momentum the Nighthawks' way.

On its next drive, Centennial committed four penalties and was forced to punt. The Coyotes got the ball back after I-Ridge punted it back, but continued to shoot themselves in the foot.

On the third play, Centennial quarterback Tre'von Grant was intercepted by Scott Simmons, who returned it 11 yards for a touchdown. The Nighthawks' extra point was blocked, making it 20-3. 

"That was a big momentum changer in the game," said Simmons, who had six tackles and a sack in the win. "They were backed up and their offense was struggling a little bit. It got us up even more and we ran with it."

The Nighthawks still weren't done.

Braunreiter scored again-this time on a 36-yard run straight up the middle to make it 27-3. He finished with 80 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries.

Ironwood Ridge's win gives a Southern Arizona big school a state championship for the first time since Canyon del Oro beat Sabino in 2009.

It also marks the first time since 2003 that a Southern Arizona team has beaten a Phoenix-area school to win the state title. Sunnyside beat Glendale Cactus that year.

The Nighthawks have now won 32 games over the past three seasons to just eight losses.

It's just the school's second state championship in a team sport. Brain Peabody led the boys basketball team to a state title in 2008 over Tempe Marcos de Niza.

More inside on B4

• Seen and heard at Sun Devil Stadium on Saturday night

• Turnovers seal Centennial's fate, Klass in session for Nighthawks and I-Ridge stuffs Ortiz

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