(Oro Valley, AZ) As the storm clouds gathered in the distance, the real storm took place on the turf at Ironwood Ridge Stadium, where the Nighthawks we’re hosting the Mountain View Mountain Lions.
Mountain View, under the direction of first year head coach Matt Johnson was looking to grab a win in Nighthawk territory. The same territory where coach Johnson led Ironwood Ridge for 10 years.
On the other side of the field, coach James Hardy Jr. was looking to get his first win as the Nighthawks new head coach. Coach Hardy was hired by Ironwood Ridge over the summer after Matt Johnson resigned. Hardy quickly got to work getting his players acclimated to a new system.
With both Johnson and Hardy coaching their first game at new schools, which coach would prevail in the battle of first year coaches?
Both teams came out fairly conservative on offense as they worked through their first game jitters. The defense on both sides played well keeping the opponents offense out of the end zone. The only score of the quarter came when Mountain View QB Hayden Parson threw an interception that Ironwood Ridge’s Cameron Drescher snagged for a pick 6 with 24 seconds left in the quarter.
End of first quarter, Nighthawks up 7- 0 over the Mountain Lions
Mountain View started the second quarter with a well-designed offensive sequence that had the Nighthawk defense on their heels. Marching down the field the Mountain Lions had a 1st and goal at the Ironwood Ridge 1 yard line. A goal line stand by Ironwood Ridge forcing a turnover on downs at their own 5 yard line.
With 8:29 left the Nighthawks, behind a strong offensive line, gave Brandon Barrios the ball and let him slice up the Mountain View defense. Ironwood Ridge QB Fabian Figueroa completed 2 passes during the drive, one resulting in a TD.
On Mountain View’s next offensive drive, a hand off to Shaun Buttigieg and a QB keeper by Hayden Parson kept the Mountain Lions moving. Parson threw another interception, this time to Ian Martinez.
A 52 yard reception by Ironwood Ridge WR Hudson Thompson and a 6 yard TD reception by two way player Octavio Audry-Cobos sent the Nighthawks into the locker room at the half up 21-0.
The start of the second half saw both defenses playing hard-nosed football. Mountain View’s Darren Stroman intercepted Ironwood Ridge QB Fabian Figueroa. Parson threw an interception, but the interception was called back on a roughing the passer call. 5 plays later Parson scored on a QB keeper.
End of the third quarter Ironwood Ridge 21 –Mountain View 7
First play of the fourth quarter, with Ironwood on offense, Brandon Barrios broke free for a 40 yard gain on 2nd down, his longest of the night. The Mountain View defense buckled down forcing Ironwood Ridge to punt.
A few possessions later, with under 2 minutes left in the game, Parson threw another interception and the game ended with the Nighthawks downing the ball in victory formation.
In the end, the teacher could not defeat the students and Coach Hardy won the battle of first year coaches.
Final score: Ironwood Ridge Nighthawks 21 – Mountain View Mountain Lions 7
Post Game Note:
As mentioned at the beginning of the article, Mountain View head coach Matt Johnson was the head coach at Ironwood Ridge last season.
Most of the Ironwood Ridge players were coached up to be the players they are today by coach Johnson and his coaching staff.
At the end of the game many Nighthawk players made their way over to coach Johnson giving him hugs and handshakes.
If there were any doubts about the impact coaches have on the youth they coach, those doubts go away after seeing the reaction of the Nighthawk players upon the return of their former coach as an opponent. Well done Nighthawk football players and coach Johnson, well done.