Ironwood Ridge rises to the occasion

Williams' leap for TD helps Nighthawks beat top-ranked Coyotes
2012-09-29T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T15:35:56Z Ironwood Ridge rises to the occasionPatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
September 29, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Tyler Williams took off running from the 15-yard line.

Between the Ironwood Ridge quarterback and the end zone were a bright orange pylon and Peoria Centennial cornerback Xavier Villanueva.

"I thought about just trying to run through him," Williams said after the Nighthawks' 28-24 home win against the team ranked No. 1 in the state Division II seedings. "I didn't think I could do it."

But he had to go for the end zone; Centennial's size and strength meant this might be Ironwood Ridge's best chance to score.

So, in front of a standing room-only homecoming crowd, Williams took off, flew through the air and over Villanueva.

"That was awesome," teammate Jake Matthews said. "It actually scared me."

Friday's win by the Nighthawks (6-0) over their nationally ranked nemesis might be remembered as Southern Arizona's Game of the Year; Ironwood Ridge, ranked No. 2 in the seedings, is sure to be No. 1 next week.

The game's postcard, despite a tug-of-war second half, will be Williams' hurdle to put his team up 21-3 with 9:23 left in the first half.

"We were up by 18," Williams said, "but it felt like we were up by one."

By that point, the senior had:

• Completed his only two pass attempts, for 110 yards. The first went 75 yards after Williams juked two defenders, rolled right and found Julian Figueroa behind the defense.

• Ran for three touchdowns in his first eight carries, including a 5-yarder for the first score and a 1-yarder to go up 14-3.

• Overcame a disastrous start, throwing an incomplete backward pass on his team's first play, which was ruled a fumble and recovered by Centennial.

The only thing he didn't do was win homecoming king. He was a finalist.

"That's all right," he said, laughing.

Centennial (5-1) rallied from a 21-10 halftime deficit.

After a fumbled Ironwood Ridge handoff on the third quarter's first drive, the Coyotes drove 90 yards and scored on a 27-yard pass from Tre'von Grant to Jalen Ortiz.

After the Coyotes forced a punt, Grant threw an interception that Ironwood Ridge returned to the 14-yard line. Two plays later, Williams - who finished with 125 passing yards and 54 rushing yards - found a diving Figueroa for a touchdown and a 28-17 lead.

The score stayed that way until, with 6:55 left, on third-and-15, Grant found Ortiz again, for an 88-yard score.

It stunned the stadium.

"They're a great team," Nighthawks coach Matt Johnson said, "So they're gonna respond."

The Nighthawks punted but forced turnovers on their next two possessions.

The first came when Matthews - who also had an interception earlier - blitzed Grant from the blind side to force a fumble with 3:40 to play.

"He wasn't looking at me, so I could get a big shot," he said.

Ironwood Ridge recovered but punted again. The Coyotes took over at their 15-yard line with 1:16 left.

After marching to midfield, their heave was intercepted in the final seconds for the Nighthawks' first-ever win against the Coyotes.

"Not too many schools have a lot of wins against Centennial," Johnson said. "We feel blessed for this one."

On StarNet: Follow all your favorite high school teams through the season at: azstarnet.com/high-school

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