Ironwood Ridge 28, Canyon del Oro 7

2011-08-27T00:00:00Z 2014-07-02T09:44:14Z Ironwood Ridge 28, Canyon del Oro 7Michael J. Craven Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 27, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Ironwood Ridge coach Matt Johnson addressed his team for less than a minute following Friday's 28-7 season-opening win at archrival Canyon del Oro.

There wasn't much to say. The Nighthawks dominated CDO, beating the perennially dominant Dorados for the first time since 2006, which was also the last time CDO lost to a Southern Arizona team.

Johnson's only sentiment: "Don't get in trouble … but go celebrate with your fans."

And with that, 40 or so white jerseys ran to greet an exuberant student section. It was full, as it always is for Oro Valley's Super Bowl, regardless of the venue.

It was appropriate that they rushed to the fence. The Nighthawks tallied 350 yards on the ground on Friday night, split mostly between new quarterback Tyler Williams (110 yards on 27 carries) and returning running back Mitch Fischer (173 yards on 25 carries). Anthony Braunreiter and Julian Figueroa combined for 67 more yards.

When was the last time the Dorados' stout, brick-wall defense allowed 350 yards rushing?

Answer: In their last game, a 41-34 loss to Scottsdale Saguaro in the 2010 state championship.

In that December game, Saguaro quarterback Teddy Ruben and running back D.J. Foster punished CDO with the zone-read option for most of the contest.

Let's just say Ironwood Ridge had access to the film.

"We watched that film about every day for the past two months," Williams said with a grin.

CDO linebacker Blake Martinez was having déjà vu on Friday.

"It was a flashback, for sure," Martinez remarked. "They ran that zone-read all game. I was thinking 'This is just like Saguaro.' "

Fischer scored the game's first touchdown on a zone-read play from 24 yards in the first quarter.

CDO answered on the next drive with a 40-yard pass from new quarterback Cooper Smith to receiver Josh Brown, and the score at halftime was 7-7.

A tie game, or close to it, at halftime between CDO and Ironwood Ridge has never been unusual. The stat sheet at the half on Friday, however, was a sign of the immense changes that have taken place since last season.

Last year's Nighthawks relied heavily on the arm of Tyler D'Amore, who passed for 2,842 yards by season's end. Passing yards at the half: zero.

Last year's Dorados relied heavily on the legs of Ka'Deem Carey, who rushed for over 5,000 yards in his career at CDO. Rushing yards at the half: seven.

Carey, who arrived late but watched Friday's game from the sideline, shook his head in disbelief when informed of CDO's first-half rushing total.

"That's terrible," he said.

But things would get worse for CDO in the second half. The Dorados offense remained stagnant, while their defense, which had held three times during the first half, fell apart. Suddenly, the Nighthawks were finding gaping holes and taking serious advantage.

Ironwood Ridge went 53 yards in seven plays to open the third quarter, a drive capped by a Fischer 13-yard run. On the Nighthawks' next drive, they went 63 yards in eight plays. Williams ran that one in from, once again, 13 yards.

"That zone-read, it doesn't have boundaries," said the speedy Williams, who passed just three times and had one completion for 9 yards. "I don't have to do just one thing. I can read it, and then just go with what the defense does and just react.

"I feel like it fits me a lot better" than a traditional quarterback role.

Williams capped the scoring with a 10-yard keeper early in the fourth quarter that polished off a nine-play, 71-yard drive. CDO's defense stopped the Nighthawks just once in the second half - with one minute remaining and the game out of reach.

"The whole team thought we'd start off how we have in the past," Martinez said. "The younger guys thought it would just happen.

"Now they know they're going to have to work for it."

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