CDO, Ridge ignite grid season - The Explorer: Sports

CDO, Ridge ignite grid season

Defending state champion Dorados visit 'Hawks at 7 p.m. Friday

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Posted: Monday, August 23, 2010 11:00 pm | Updated: 8:10 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

Tyler D'Amore still feels the sting of last season's 14-10, last-second loss to Scottsdale Desert Mountain in the 5A football playoffs.

"That's why I worked all off-season," said senior quarterback D'Amore, a three-year starter who wants to lead his final Nighthawk squad deeper into the 2010 playoffs.

"That was a tough loss," agreed Nighthawk center Tanner Todd, another three-year starter.

"We were 40 seconds from playoff tickets after we were 1-4," second-year coach Matt Johnson said. Indeed, the Nighthawks won five of their last six games, one by forfeit, to finish 6-5 and turn around what began as a difficult season.

"Transition is always tough," Johnson said of his first campaign at the Ridge helm. This season, "the kids definitely understand who I am and what I expect." His expectations? "Always compete. Work extremely hard. Put in a lot of hours. Be great students. Always show class."

D'Amore, 6-1 and 185 pounds, likes this year's team, which hosts defending state champion Canyon Del Oro at 7 p.m. Friday.

"It's the intensity, and the way we worked in the off-season," D'Amore said. "We have the mindset, the mindset to get to the state championship."

D'Amore leads with "positive encouragement. Be positive with the young players. You can't be negative. If we score a touchdown off a pass, the first people you thank is the offensive line."

D'Amore believes he's matured "in more understanding of the game." He credits the coaching staff.

"Just as much as we're going to rely on his arm, we're going to rely on his leadership and his intelligence for us to reach our goals," Johnson said of D'Amore. "He's a special kid on and off the field."

There are others, too, among them wide receiver Trevor Wesley, linebacker and running back Gabe Campa, Todd and running back and safety Mitch Fischer.

Ironwood Ridge is more experienced than it was a season ago. "Last year, we were young," Johnson said. The Nighthawks are quicker. "Like most Tucson teams, we don't have a lot of depth," he said. "A lot of kids go both ways. We need to stay injury-free if we're really going to be successful."

The 'Hawks have "really worked hard since January preparing for this season," with the requisite time in the weight room, improving speed and playing other sports. Johnson's numbers are "pretty darned solid," with 140 players through the program.

"Success is pretty simple," Johnson said. "We make it a habit to always improve everything we do. If we keep that mentality, we'll be OK."

The schedule is "extremely rigorous," with six playoff teams along the way. It's not just Canyon Del Oro; Salpointe Catholic, Sunnyside and others await. "Every week, we face a big-time program," Johnson said. "It certainly makes us better come playoff time."

Ironwood Ridge is "ready" and "very excited" for CDO this Friday night, D'Amore said. "They're on the throne right now, on top." He and CDO star Ka'Deem Carey are good friends, having known each other for years. "We're competitors. Both of us hate to lose."

While Carey has committed to play at Arizona, D'Amore has college football aspirations of his own. But that's not his immediate focus.

"We've got the talent," D'Amore said. "We're playing to get there in December."

Ironwood Ridge

Mascot: Nighthawks

Region: 5A-1 Southern

Coach: Matt Johnson

6-5 a season ago

Schedule:

Aug. 27 Canyon Del Oro

Sept. 3 at Mesa Skyline

Sept. 10 Laveen Cesar Chavez

Sept. 16 at Cienega

Sept. 24 at Salpointe Catholic

Oct. 1 Rincon/University

Oct. 8 at Tucson

Oct. 15 at Sierra Vista Buena

Oct. 22 Sunnyside

Nov. 5 Mountain View

Todd has looked long to this year

Tanner Todd, the 6-2, 265-pound Ironwood Ridge center, has thought about his senior football season for a long time.

"I've been looking forward to this since freshman year," Todd said during a hot practice night last week. "I can't wait for that first game."

It comes Friday, when the Nighthawks host defending state champion Canyon Del Oro in a 7 p.m. kickoff.

Todd has been snapping the ball to his friend, quarterback Tyler D'Amore, for two full varsity seasons. To keep sharp, Todd snaps between 100 and 200 footballs a night.

A season ago, it was "a big change when we got a new coach," Todd said. "It's paying off." Matt Johnson is "a great coach. He's teaching me to read, to make calls."

As a senior leader, Todd commits to "show dedication, to come to every practice, to coach and help out the younger kids, to inspire kids to get stronger, and to give 100 percent on every play.

"Whenever you mess up, you've got to blame yourself for it, and do it better the next time," Todd said.

The Nighthawks are "all working hard," Todd said. "It's really helping us. We want to win state. Every kid says they're going to win state. You have to have that mentality."

Todd wants to play football in college. But first, there's a high school senior season to play.

—Dave Perry

© 2014 The Explorer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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HS Schedule

Tuesday, September 30

Boys Golf (3 p.m.)

Mountain View at Haven Golf Course

Ironwood Ridge, Buena, Catalina at Rincon (Dell Urich)

Girls Volleyball (4, 5, 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted)

Marana at CDO

Maricopa at Mountain View

Ironwood Ridge at Vista Grande

Poston Butte at Catalina Foothills

San Miguel at Pusch Ridge

Freshman Football (6 p.m.)

Maricopa at Marana

Wednesday, October 1

Girls Golf (3 p.m.)

Mountain View vs. Ironwood Ridge (Omnu Tucson National)

CDO, Sunnyside at Flowing Wells (Silverbell)

Sabino at Catalina Foothills

Cross Country (4:30 p.m.)

Ironwood Ridge, Sahuarita at Flowing Wells (Columbus Park)

Marana, St. Gregory at Catalina Foothills

Girls Volleyball (4, 5, 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted)

CDO at Ironwood Ridge

Freshman Football (6 p.m.)

Mountain View at Salpointe

Catalina Foothills at CDO

JV Football (6.p.m.)

Marana at Maricopa

Salpointe at Mountain View

CDO at Catalina Foothills

Thursday, October 2

Swimming (4 p.m.)

Mountain View, St. Gregory’s, Pusch Ridge at Marana

Girls Volleyball (4, 5, 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted)

Mountain View at Poston Butte

Catalina Foothills at Flowing Wells

Pusch Ridge at Willcox

Varsity Football (7p.m.)

Maricopa at Marana

Mountain View at Salpointe

Catalina Foothills @ CDO

Ironwood Ridge at Rincon

Friday, October 3

Boys Golf (all day)

CDO, Ironwood Ridge at Santa Rita/Flowing Wells Invitational

Girls Vollyeball (all day)

CDO, Catalina Foothills at Falcon Invitational

Cross Country

Catalina Foothills, CDO, Ironwood Ridge at Desert Twilight Festival

Varsity Footbal (7 p.m.)

Pusch Ridge at San Tan Valley

Saturday, October 4

Boys Golf (all day)

CDO at Santa Rita/Flowing Wells Invitational

Swimming (all day)

Catalina Foothills, CDO, Ironwood Ridge at Brophy/Xavier Swim Invitational

Girls Volleyball (4 p.m.)

Pusch Ridge at Desert Christian

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