The last time Tucson High won six straight games in a season, coach Ollie Mayfield was roaming the sidelines and Mike Dawson was terrorizing the opposition.
At least that was the case until Friday night. The Badgers ran through Ironwood Ridge 51-30 at home to give Tucson (6-1) its sixth straight victory and make a claim as one of Southern Arizona’s best teams, despite a 315-yard rushing night by I-Ridge’s Jake Vartanian.
“We have that mentality that no one can stop us,” Tucson quarterback Donovan Moore said. “As long as we have that mentality, we’re just gonna go. We’re gonna roll.”
This group of Badgers might not have the same notoriety as the late Mayfield’s 1971 state championship team, but the talented trio of Moore, running back Bryce Coleman and receiver Elijah Anderson has helped Tucson average a 34.7 point margin of victory over the past six weeks.
Ironwood Ridge (5-2) didn’t go down easy, though.
After a relatively slow first quarter, with Tucson leading 7-2, the teams exploded for a combined 35 points in the second quarter as the Badgers took a 27-17 lead.
The Nighthawks just couldn’t figure out a way to stop the Tucson attack, and after an 11-yard strike from Moore to Anderson with 1:30 left in the third quarter, the Badgers looked to be pulling away, ahead 37-17.
But Vartanian kept things interesting with an 81-yard TD run down the right sideline on the next play to cut the deficit to two scores.
On the next drive Moore, who went 10 for 13 for 134 yards, made a rare mistake, throwing the ball to I-Ridge linebacker Dalton Pakkala.
Tucson had yet to beat Ironwood Ridge in its six previous attempts, and the Nighthawks seemed poised for a comeback.
But the Badgers defense stopped Ironwood Ridge on the drive after the turnover, and then Coleman punched it in from a yard out, his second score of the game, to secure the historic victory.
“The last six tries (Tucson) came up a little short; tonight we came out with a bang,” Tucson coach Justin Argraves said. “All the testament goes to my coaching staff and these kids out here.”
Vartanian entered the game with the third most yards in Division II and added 315 yards and three scores to his totals, but the Nighthawk offense failed to keep up with Tucson’s pace.
The Badgers had 383 yards on the ground, including 192 from Moore and 165 from Coleman. Anderson, who had a game-high 63 yards receiving, also had a 98-yard kickoff return in the second quarter.
“For us to come out and put up points on a tough team like that, great job,” Argraves said. “All aspects — offense, defense and special teams — played lights out.”
Tucson and Ironwood Ridge were ranked eighth and ninth, respectively, in the latest football seedings. The loss makes the road tougher for the defending Division II champion Nighthawks, but I-Ridge coach Matt Johnson called it a good learning experience.
“If we’re lucky enough to get into the playoffs, this was a great game to get ready; this was a playoff-type of game,” Johnson said.