Last season, a 4-1 Ironwood Ridge team on its way to the most successful season in school history met an undefeated Salpointe Catholic squad at home in mid-October.
The result: the Lancers' first loss, as the Nighthawks rolled to a 41-14 win.
When the rivalry resumes this Friday night, however, things will look a little different, at least for Ironwood Ridge.
While the Lancers enter the contest unbeaten for the second straight season (at 3-0), the Nighthawks have had a more difficult opening month, going 1-3. They've been outscored 68-34 overall.
In spite of the gap in wins and offensive output, Salpointe head coach Dennis Bene is not taking anything for granted.
"They had a great team last year and they handled us quite easily," said Bene. "We have to expect to get another great effort from them, regardless of record."
For that effort to be a winning one, first-year Ironwood Ridge head coach Matt Johnson said his team has to work on playing well for the entire game.
"We're close to being a good team, we've been in all our games," said Johnson. "Our biggest thing is getting consistent."
That consistency will be tested by Salpointe' s strength on both sides of the ball, according to Johnson.
"Their two big tight ends (Colby Weaver and Sean Craig) present matchup problems," said Johnson. "And on defense they' re just very well-coached, they' re limiting teams to around 10 points a game."
Bene has a similar respect for what the Nighthawks put on the field.
"Ironwood Ridge is a really talented team – we have our hands full," said Bene. "(Junior quarterback) Tyler (D'Amore) and (senior running back) Adrian (Brahler) can score anywhere, at any time, through the air and on the ground, and historically they also play great defense."
A great deal of mutual admiration doesn't mean, however, that either team won't be ready on Friday.
Both coaches are already focused on areas of their game that may be crucial to the game's outcome.
"We have to play mistake-free football, and limit penalties and turnovers," said Bene. "If we play sloppy, we have no chance at all."
Johnson has more specific aims for his squad.
"Our quick passing game has to connect, and the defensive line needs to have a great game and we have to make sure to try to keep those tight ends from getting going," he said.
Johnson also said a big effort from the defensive backfield would be key for the Nighthawks.
"We're really looking for (junior) Gabe Campa, (senior) Greg Chandler and (senior) Jordan Mills defensively to try and limit a lot of what Salpointe does," said Johnson.
Whether or not the planning and preparations will end in a victory for the Nighthawks or Lancers remains to be seen, but Johnson said a win would set a tone for his team.
"It is a big challenge, but if we do pull it out against the odds and get it done, it would be a boost of confidence to our team, to realize that we can compete with a great team like Salpointe," said Johnson.
Bene feels the same.
"This is, by far, our toughest test yet," he said.
CDO rushes to 3-0; lions push Sabino in loss
Canyon Del Oro
Junior running back Ka'Deem Carey continued his explosive season on Thursday, as the Dorados (4-0, and ranked #1 in 4A-I) went on the road to defeat the Queen Creek Bulldogs, 30-7. Carey finished the game with 193 rushing yards on 17 carries and three touchdowns. Next up for CDO – the team heads south to take on Nogales (0-3) this Friday at 7 p.m.
The Nighthawks lost at home 19-7 to Cienega on Thursday night to fall to 1-3 on the season. The Bobcats' front line created big opportunities for their vaunted running back, Willie Willis, who ran for 127 yards. For Ironwood Ridge, senior running back Adrian Brahler ran for 45 yards on 16 carries, and junior quarterback Tyler D'Amore added 22 more rushing yards on four carries. D'Amore also completed 11 of 22 pass attempts for 126 yards. Junior wideout Austin Ballard led all receivers with four receptions for 66 yards, and Brahler reeled in three catches for 47 yards.
The Nighthawks host undefeated Salpointe Catholic this Friday at 7 p.m.
After Sabino opened an early lead against Mountain View at home Thursday night, the Mountain Lions fought back in the fourth quarter, tying the game, but a late score by the Sabercats left the contest with a final score of 28-21. Sabino's offense rang up 314 yards of total offense to Mountain View's 199, but senior running back Myles Williams' 28 touches for 116 yards and three rushing touchdowns enabled the 0-3 Mountain Lions to stay close. Senior wideout/running back Mark Vera added another 61 yards on 13 carries.
Mountain View will be looking for its first win when the Lions visit Sunnyside this Friday at 7 p.m.