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


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

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HS Schedule

Tuesday, September 16

Boys Golf (@ 3 p.m.)

Buena, Cienega at Marana

Mountain View, Ironwood Ridge, Catalina at Amphi (Silverbell GC)

Catalina Foothills, Pueblo, Sahuarita at Sahuaro

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

Mountain View at Rio Rico

Ironwood Ridge at Glendale Ironwood

Swimming (@4 p.m.)

Pusch Ridge, Sahuarita at Desert Christian

Wednesday, September 17

Girls Golf (@ 3 p.m.)

Rincon at CDO

Ironwood Ridge, Desert View at Flowing Wells (Silverbell)

Cross Country (@4:30)

Salpointe at Catalina Foothills

Palo Verde, Nogales at Marana

Rincon, St. Gregory at CDO

Sahuarita, Pueblo, Pusch Ridge at Desert View

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

Empire at Marana (4:30, 5:30, 6:30)

CDO at Queen Creek

Cienega at Mountain View

Sahuaro at Catalina Foothills

Walden Grove at Pusch Ridge

Thursday, September 18

Girls Golf

CDO, Ironwood Ridge at Phoenix Aguila Invitational (all day)

Boys Golf

Sahuaro and Salpointe at Ironwood Ridge

CDO, Rincon, Sunnyside at Tucson High

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

Marana at Sahuarita

Ironwood Ridge at Sahuaro (4:30, 5:30, 6:30)

Catalina Foothills at Rincon

Pusch Ridge at San Manuel

Swimming (4 p.m.)

Marana vs. Tucson at Quincy Douglas Pool

Cienega at Marana

CDO, Ironwood Ridge at Amphi

Catalina Foothills at Sahuaro

Freshman Football (all games at 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted)

Flowing Wells at Marana (4 p.m.)

Desert View at Mountain View

Cienega at CDO

Ironwood Ridge at Buena

Catalina Foothills at Sahuarita

JV Football (all games at 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted)

Amphi at Marana

Santa Cruz Valley at Pusch Ridge

Mountain View at Desert View

CDO at Cienega

Buena at Ironwood Ridge

Sahuarita at Catalina Foothills

Friday, September 19

Boys Golf

Catalina Foothills, Ironwood Ridge, CDO, at Phoenix Aguila Invitational (all day)

Cross Country

Mountain View, Ironwood Ridge at Mt. Carmel Invitational (San Diego, CA)

Girls Volleyball

CDO at Westwood Tournament of Champions

Football (@7 p.m.)

Pusch Ridge at Santa Cruz Valley

Catalina at Marana

Desert Vista at Mountain View

Ironwood Ridge at Buena

Cienega at CDO

Catalina Foothills at Sahuarita

Saturday, September 20

Boys Golf

Catalina Foothills, Ironwood Ridge, CDO, at Phoenix Aguila Invitational (all day)

Cross Country

Marana at Old Pueblo Invite(Lincoln Park)

Mountain View at San Diego

Catalina Foothills, CDO at Ojo Rojo (Chandler, AZ)


Marana at Wolves Classic (Chandler High)

Girls Volleyball

CDO at Westwood Tournament of Champions


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