The Ironwood Ridge Nighthawks’ football team was already in a very good position heading into last Friday night’s match up against the Cholla Chargers. The team had won its first three contests by a combined 109 points, while Cholla had struggled to an 0-3 record and combined deficit of 77 points. The Nighthawks stepped it up a notch on Friday though, completely overpowering the Chargers en route to a 62-6 shellacking.
“I thought our kids did a great job,” said Nighthawks’ coach Matt Johnson. “They were real focused all week, and just wanted to come out and execute, which they obviously did.”
The game didn’t start out appearing like such a mismatch, as Cholla made a decent drive on the opening possession. However, once the Chargers punted the ball to the Nighthawks, it became clear who was going to take control. Only six plays after the punt return to the 29 yard line, Ironwood began their scoring brigade off a 16-yard pass from quarterback Tyler Williams to senior Jake Matthews.
Williams would convert on another touchdown pass to Matthews in the first quarter, scoring on a 36-yard pass to make it 14-0.
With momentum firmly on their side, the Nighthawks exploded in the second quarter. They put up 28 points to head to the locker room up 42-0 at halftime.
Notable plays among these drives were a 65-yard carry and 19-yard touchdown fumble return by senior Julian Figeroua, and a 96-yard touchdown carry by Williams off a Cholla turnover near the end zone.
Willams and Matthews continued to carry the team both statistically and in leadership as has been the case throughout the season. Due to the lopsided nature of the game, both only played in the first half. However, Williams still managed to rack up a combined 228 offensive yards, while Matthews tallied 99 receiving yards.
“The great thing about Tyler and Jake and a lot of my seniors is that they’re humble,” Johnson said. “All the players believe in them because of their hard work, not because of a highlight or a newspaper article, but because of their sweat. So it’s a real blessing to coach those guys.”
Despite sitting most of their starters for the duration of the second half, the Nighthawks still managed to significantly outplay the Chargers. Junior QB Austin Campbell took over the reins and impressed with a 16 yard passing touchdown to senior tight end Eddie Gonzalez, as well as two short TOUCHDOWN carries for 6 and 11 yards.
After going into the fourth quarter down 56-0, Cholla was finally able to get itself on the scoreboard off a 5 yard TOUCHDOWN run by Eliu Hernandez. That would be the only six points the Chargers would manage on the night though.
Despite the utterly dominant performance Friday night, Coach Johnson is determined to not allow his team to get overconfident. He believes there are still areas the team can improve and tune up.
“We still got to improve our line play on offense” Johnson said. “That’s definitely the focus right now.”
Standing at 4-0 now, the Nighthawks look like a powerhouse at the moment and would appear the local favorite for a state title run this season. Coach Johnson doesn’t want to look that far ahead yet though.
“I think we [still] have to get better each week,” Johnson said. “We’re close but we’re not there yet.”
Ironwood Ridge will face its first real competition this Friday night in Tempe at Marcos de Niza, who also have powered their to way to a 4-0 start. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.