Ridge pulls off a big win - The Explorer: Sports

Ridge pulls off a big win

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Posted: Wednesday, November 24, 2010 12:00 am | Updated: 8:13 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

Ironwood Ridge pulled off the biggest upset of this high school football season Friday, and did so in convincing style.

After spotting second-seeded, unbeaten Glendale Sandra Day O’Connor a 7-0 lead on its second play from scrimmage, the Nighthawks scored five unanswered touchdowns and 35 straight points to beat the hosts 41-21 in the 5A-II state quarterfinals.

“Our players made big plays,” said Coach Matt Johnson, whose team is on a seven-game winning streak. Ridge, 9-3, now plays #3 Peoria Centennial on Friday, Dec. 3, at a site to be determined.

O’Connor “came out on fire,” Johnson said. “They put up a quick touchdown on a missed coverage, and got the ball back on an onside kick. We were really reeling.”

But the defense held.

Mitch Fischer, the junior running back and free safety who gives the Nighthawks a swagger on the football field, contributed a turning point. When he ran the ball 75 yards for a touchdown, Fischer “got everybody back to staying calm and being focused,” Johnson said. “Our kids displayed a lot of mental toughness.”

The gates opened. Senior quarterback Tyler D’Amore found Trevor Wesley on scoring passes of 46, 34 and 25 yards. Fischer ran for two points after two of those scores, and the Nighthawks led 28-7 at halftime.

They kept going, Fischer finishing a drive on an eight-yard catch from D’Amore. He would run 47 yards for Ironwood’s final points, and added an interception along the way. O’Connor scored 14 points in the later going.

Johnson said his football team believed it could win Friday.

“We’d done our film study, and thought we had some advantages,” Johnson said. “Even with their hot start, we knew if we could focus and execute, we knew we’d have our opportunities. It ended up a little lopsided.”

Defensively, once the Nighthawks “calmed down, we played real well,” Johnson said.

“Our strength was our run stops. Our run defense did a real nice job. I give a lot of credit to our D.” Leading the way were Tyler Grammar, blitzing off the edge, and Enrique Diaz and Will Gordon. “They did a nice job of putting pressure on the passing situations and still stopping the run,” Johnson said. “Linebacker Gabe Campa, as always, did an excellent job.”

Ironwood Ridge might be swell-headed entering a semifinal game … but it’s not.

“I think they’re pretty well grounded,” Johnson said. “Everybody knows Centennial’s a big powerhouse, and we’ve got a real big challenge in front of us. We’re definitely not cocky. We know we’re going to get to play one of the best teams in Arizona, and be tested as a team.”

Give the roll this Ridge team is on, Johnson might be chomping to play this week.

“Normally, I would,” he said. “We’re really beat up. We’re not one of those teams with 70 kids on the roster. We’re beat up, and this gives a good chance for us to heal. We’re just fine with taking a week off and getting some rest.”

The respite gives Ironwood Ridge a chance to focus anew on the prize.

“We win one more game, and stay together as a team for one more week,” Johnson said.

“The goal of football at some level is to have fun while learning discipline and work ethic,” Johnson said. “I think they are having fun. I think they do support each other while working their butts off and being responsible citizens.

“It’s fun. We’re excited. They’ll give it their best shot and see if we can go another week.”

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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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