The past three weeks, right before his team has taken the field, Ironwood Ridge coach Matt Johnson has told his team a joke.

“Just a clean joke to keep them loose before they go out,” Johnson said.

“I want them to focus on what we can control.

“And, what we can control is having fun and focusing on the brotherhood of Ironwood Ridge football.”

The Nighthawks (12-1) will travel to Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe today to play Peoria Centennial (12-1) in the Division II state championship game at 7:07 p.m.

And when they do, Johnson doesn’t want his team thinking about its opponent. The coach and the 50 players on his roster can’t control that.

They can control their effort and level of execution.

“I always tell the team: ‘If the Green Bay Packers show up, we’re going to have some mismatches, but we’re going to go out there and do our thing,’” Johnson said.

Read more about the game in Saturday's Arizona Daily Star.