For Salpointe Catholic, tonight's matchup against 5A Southern Region foe Ironwood Ridge is sort of like that painful dentist appointment you keep putting off.

It's the one that stares at you on the calendar for weeks in advance. It'll be a relief once it's over, but the anticipation is killing you.

Salpointe will host Ironwood Ridge tonight at 7 in what will be the Lancers' first true test of the season. They began the year 3-0 against two 5A teams with losing records and a 4A Catalina Foothills squad still finding its identity.

Ironwood Ridge has gone toe to toe with two of the best teams in Arizona. The Nighthawks lost by two scores to defending 4A-I state champion CDO in Week 1, then narrowly lost to 4A-I state contender Cienega last week.

"I think we'll be more ready than them," I-Ridge safety Mitch Fischer said of Salpointe. "They haven't really played anyone yet. I think when they go out there and they are playing against a good team, I think they'll be surprised a little bit."

Salpointe sophomore running back Johnny Peña has picked up where he left off after his breakout freshman season. He's averaging 127 yards and two touchdowns a game on the ground, as well as a 6.7 yards-per-carry average.

Senior transfer quarterback Jordan Scelfo has transitioned beautifully into the Lancers' offense. He's 44 for 66 with 513 yards, two touchdowns and a pick through three games. That's 170 yards and 20 completions better than Salpointe was through the air at this point last season.

But most importantly, the Lancers are winning. They have outscored opponents 102-38 this year, and coach Dennis Bene said that's all that really matters.

"I'm not concerned about who (Ironwood Ridge) has played," Bene said. "The bottom line is what we've done with our opponents."

The game is more important for the Nighthawks, who are in danger of falling to 2-3.

Ironwood Ridge quarterback Tyler D'Amore has been scary good, throwing for 814 yards, seven touchdowns and one pick.

Fischer, also the Nighthawks' starting tailback, has rushed for 445 yards and six touchdowns.

"They are playing much better than they played last year," Bene said of the Nighthawks. "We don't care about their record. They are a better football team than they were last year, and that's all that counts."