End of a career
Saturday marked the final game of Tyler Williams' career and the three-year varsity player left quite a mark on the Ironwood Ridge program.
Williams is the first player in program history to finish his career with more than 2,000 rushing yards and more than 2,000 passing yards.
He entered Saturday's game with 2,183 rushing yards and 2,123 passing yards in his career. He also has 202 receiving yards to his credit from when he was a starting wideout for the Nighthawks as a sophomore.
All total, Williams played in three semifinal games and one state championship. He was 31-8 in his career prior to Saturday's game.
The senior remains uncommitted. He has offers from Colorado, San Diego State and Army.
While Ironwood Ridge isn't exactly Cienega with its uniform combinations, the Nighthawks did break out their alternate gray jersey for Saturday's state championship game.
The Nighthawks sported the grays for their first- and second-round wins, but were not permitted to wear them in the semifinals. Since I-Ridge was the designated road team in the semifinal matchup against Tempe Marcos de Niza, the AIA mandated the Nighthawks wear white jerseys.
But, since they were the higher seed Saturday, they were allowed to break them out again.
I-Ridge wore the grays once during the regular season.
Consider us surprised the Nighthawks didn't wear all blue -the uniforms they wore when they beat Centennial in the regular season.
The big number
Ironwood Ridge had to drive an extra 71 miles to Saturday's Division II state championship game compared to Peoria Centennial. The Nighthawks made a 101-mile trip from Oro Valley while the Coyotes only had to drive 30 miles from Peoria.
A relaxed coach
Nighthawks coach Matt Johnson, known for trying to keep things light, enjoyed the final quarter of the Division III state championship game from the stands.
Johnson, wearing gym shorts and a T-shirt, sat in section 17 with a few other coaches and took in the the finish of Queen Creek's 9-7 win over Goodyear Desert Edge.
The Nighthawks arrived at Sun Devil Stadium at 4:30 p.m., for the 7 p.m., game and had time to kill before their game.
The coach likes to stay loose before games. He tossed a football around with an assistant coach before Saturday's game and the team's semifinal win.
"Man, I sure wish I did."
- Former Nighthawks running back Mitch Fischer, who was on the field pregame, when asked if he had another game of eligibility remaining.
Meet the Nighthawks
When Centennial was introduced before Saturday's game, the Coyotes ran onto the Sun Devil Stadium field all at once. All 67 players ran out at the same time, being led by an American flag.
When Ironwood Ridge was introduced, it was a different story.
The Nighthawks were introduced one-by-one with each player getting his name called over the stadium public address system.
We prefer the way Ironwood Ridge was introduced - give the players their due for such a big game.
Another big number
Centennial was a perfect 3 for 3 on fourth-down conversions in the first half.
Senior lineman Trevor Eischeid had some colorful fans in the stands at Sun Devil Stadium. His brother, Colin, a junior at Ironwood Ridge, along with classmates Jon Iniguez and Seth Freifeld made the trip to Tempe.
They arrived about three hours before kickoff to prepare for the game by painting themselves silver and blue - Ironwood Ridge's colors.
The three have been painted up for every game this year except for the Nighthawks' 35-21 win over Tempe Marcos de Niza in the state semifinals last week.
Iniguez said it was a tight fit on the ride up in Colin's Avalon because Eischeid's parents, Nancy and David, came along as well.