Salpointe Catholic High School needed to display some patience, but when the opportunities finally came, it showed why it is considered one of the best teams in the state.
After trailing for most of the first half, the Lancers (3-0) stayed undefeated with a 34-9 victory Friday over Ironwood Ridge. A crucial dropped snap by the IRHS punter with 3:14 left in the first half led to the game’s first touchdown and helped open the floodgates.
Salpointe wasted no time converting the miscue into points, as running back Anthony Wilhite took back-to-back carries to punch it into the end zone.
“We knew we just needed to kind of punch one in and get the momentum going on our side, and then just let it take off from there,” Salpointe coach Eric Rogers said.
For Ironwood Ridge, it was a frustrating end to an otherwise near-flawless beginning.
While the Nighthawks’ opening drive only garnered three points, it lasted 17 plays and 8:55 of game clock, silencing the rowdy home crowd. When Salpointe’s offense sputtered on its opening drive, delivering a 3-0 score at the end of the first quarter, it seemed Ironwood Ridge was here to stay.
That was one of Nighthawks coach James Hardy’s missions, to control the line of scrimmage.
“We came out and did what we planned to do,” Hardy said. “We were physical up front, took care of our assignments and as we did, we moved the ball.”
It didn’t hold true in the second half.
While Ironwood Ridge’s defense forced a field goal, its offense couldn’t do anything against the suffocating Lancer front seven, led by linebacker Davian Miranda Carrasco. Carrasco had two tackles for a loss in a critical three-and-out for Ironwood Ridge. That drive was sandwiched by two Salpointe touchdowns, a 2-yard rush by Dailan Goodman and a 24-yard pass from Treyson Bourguet to Gage Felix.
“(Carrasco) is just a natural leader,” said defensive lineman Joey Sumlin, who had a crucial sack to keep Ironwood Ridge from scoring right before halftime. “He has a big heart, works every day and never stops grinding.”
Bourguet struggled early, completing just three of his first seven passes, but finished strong, including two 20-plus-yard completions in Salpointe’s pivotal 17-point third quarter. He also used his legs more in the second half, finishing with 66 rushing yards on 10 carries. After his opening touchdown, Wilhite never slowed down, leading the Lancers with 96 rushing yards on 14 carries.
“He’s a warrior,” Rogers said. “It doesn’t matter the number of the carry, he’s always going to be running full speed, hard every time. He’s very feisty.”
Both teams can’t afford to dwell too much on the result. Salpointe marches on to a showdown at powerhouse Scottsdale Saguaro next Friday while the Nighthawks have a big game of their own, traveling to rival Canyon del Oro.