Like any good rivalry game, the Ironwood Ridge and Canyon del Oro football teams went down to the final seconds Friday night.
Down three late, CDO drove nearly the length of the field and had possession in the red zone down with less than 20 seconds left.
The Dorados elected to pass and Ironwood Ridge junior defensive back Kyle Nicolai caught a tipped ball in the end zone to secure the 24-21 victory.
“Their coaches did a great job, there were some called they made that were outstanding and it was a tough game,” Ironwood Ridge head coach Matt Johnson said. “I’m glad we got the (win).”
With the victory, Ironwood Ridge improved to 4-0 on the season and extended its winning streak over CDO to seven.
The last time CDO defeated Ironwood Ridge came on August 27, 2010, in a 26-13 victory during former CDO and Arizona standout Ka’Deem Carey’s senior season with the Dorados.
“I’ve had a lot of great players,” Johnson said. “Every coach will tell you if you have the players, you’re going to look smarter. I’ve had a lot of great players … and I’ve been blessed.”
Johnson’s team looked hesitant to open Friday’s contest, with CDO holding the Nighthawks to a quick punt and then scoring the opening touchdown on a 76-yard passing touchdown with 7:44 left in the first quarter.
The Nighthawks answered back about seven minutes later on a 53-yard touchdown reception from senior wide receiver Jadon Price with 27 seconds left in the opening quarter.
Ironwood Ridge added a field goal in the second quarter, while CDO (2-1) added a touchdown in the quarter to secure a 14-10 halftime lead.
Nighthawks senior running back Nick Brahler took over play in the second half, scoring two rushing touchdowns.
Both of Brahler’s touchdowns came with Ironwood Ridge down and gave the Nighthawks the lead both times.
After Brahler’s second touchdown put Ironwood Ridge up 24-21, CDO had two drives over the last eight minutes of the game to try to secure the win.
CDO’s second-to-last drive stalled out on a fourth-down conversion attempt deep in Ironwood Ridge territory.
Ironwood Ridge took over with 2:49 left to play but quickly had to punt the ball back to the Dorados.
CDO’s final drive started with 1:15 left to play and saw the Dorados drive nearly 50 yards down to the red zone.
The Dorados used a blend of rushing and short passes to make it to the red zone, but failed to convert on the lone shot taken at the goal line.
After the game, Johnson said he’s happy to see his team sit at a perfect 4-0, but it’s still too early in the season to draw conclusions about where his team will finish.
“In the cycle of life, we’re teenagers,” Johnson said. “We’re not adults yet, we’re teenagers. We hope by the time we’re playoff bound, we’re adults.”
Ironwood Ridge is off next week while CDO plays another rival when its hosts Amphitheater.