The last time Ironwood Ridge faced Peoria Centennial, the Nighthawks came away with their first state title.
Six years later, it couldn’t have been a more different game. The Coyotes routed host Ironwood Ridge 55-7 on Friday night.
Centennial coach Richard Taylor said he never forgot the 2012 game. And neither did his players, many of whom watched the 2012 game from the stands.
“Some of these kids remember that, they saw Ironwood Ridge push us around (in 2012) and be more physical than we were that particular day,” Taylor said. “So, we talked about this week that we couldn’t let them be more physical than we were this year. Hopefully, we did that.”
Due to a travel issue, the game was delayed 15 minutes, but Centennial came out ready to play. Jaydin Young accepted the opening kickoff and ran more than 60 yards to give the Coyotes a first down on the Nighthawks’ 13-yard line.
On the next play, Tawee Walker ran it into the end zone to give the Coyotes the first score. The Nighthawks’ defense stopped a two-point conversion, for a score of 6-0.
I-Ridge came back and, on a six-play drive, quarterback Octavio Audry-Cobos connected with Andrew Cook for a 45-yard touchdown. After the extra-point attempt, the Nighthawks led 7-6.
But that was the only time I-Ridge would score the entire night.
Centennial scored on their next drive, and again when the Coyotes were able to convert on a fumble recovery by Leandre Harris . By the end of the first quarter, Centennial led 21-7.
The Nighthawks had a glimmer of hope in the second quarter, when Rian Palma intercepted a pass. But four plays later, I-Ridge suffered another turnover due to a fumble.
By the end of the half, the Coyotes had pulled away 41-7.
The second half didn’t start any better for the Nighthawks. After the Centennial defense stopped the Ironwood Ridge offense, the snap to Nathan Grijalva for a punt was too high. Grijalva eventually recovered the ball and kicked the ball, but the Coyotes blocked it.
Dyelan Miller caught the blocked ball in the air and run it in for another touchdown.
“I could say that everything that could go wrong, did go wrong,” Ironwood Ridge coach Matt Johnson said. “And to top it off, I think we’re playing (a top) team in the country. It’s probably not the night you want to have a lot of mistakes, dropped footballs and stuff.”
This is the Nighthawks’ third straight loss after opening the season with a win at Mountain View.
Johnson said a turnaround will depend on two things: how the team prepares from here on out and the opponent.
“If we play the Green Bay Packers, then it’s going to be an uphill battle,” Johnson said. “Tonight, it felt like we were playing the Packers. We’ve played three teams in a row that have started the night undefeated. So, part of it is that we’re playing quality opponents and hopefully they’ll get us ready for region play.”
Cook led the offense with 63 yards on three receptions and the lone touchdown. Jerron McKinney finished with 45 yards on two carries, while Grijalva added 30 yards on six carries.
Audry-Cobos went 2 of 9 for 57 yards and rushed for 23 yards on five carries.
Ironwood Ridge continues its season Friday at Desert View before the region portion of its schedule.