The Ridge, Salpointe & Nogales to semifinal roundby Andy Morales on Nov. 10, 2012, under Sports
The bus carrying the Apollo High School fans from Gilbert pulled into the Ironwood Ridge parking lot about 10 minutes before kickoff. Had the bus been 10 minutes and 13 seconds late, the fans would have missed the first score of the game.
Evan Clark took the opening kick from his own 5 yard line and burst through the middle almost untouched to give Apollo an early 7-0 lead some 13 seconds into the game but the Ironwood Ridge sidelines remained upbeat, knowing it would be their turn to take the ball…
Apollo employs a short kick that lands around the 30 yard line. It’s a curious weapon because failure means excellent field position for their opponent but there is a reward if the opponent is not prepared.
Ironwood Ridge failed to cover Apollo’s first kickoff and Apollo found themselves with the ball at the Ironwood Ridge 17 yard line with 11:46 remaining in the first quarter already up 7-0.
Apollo ran the ball three times and gained only seven yards and wound up missing a 27-yard field goal. The series served notice to Apollo that a run game against the Nighthawks was not going to work. So, after Ironwood Ridge was forced to punt on their first series, Apollo turned to the air.
Apollo junior quarterback Jordan Gungl averaged 216 yards a game with 28 touchdowns entering the Division II second round match against Ironwood Ridge so he put together passes of 11, 17 and 13 yards before hitting James Anderson on a 12-yard strike to put Apollo up 14-0 with 2:52 left in the first.
Disaster almost struck the Nighthawks again after a fumble gave Apollo the ball back at midfield but Gungl missed on a couple of passes and they were forced to punt.
Ironwood Ridge QB Tyler Williams provided much of the spark on the next drive with a 25-yard run and a 14-yard pass to John Klass to help set up Anthony Braunreiter on the 4 yard line where he easily rain it in to cut the lead down to 14-6.
Tyler Berson pulled up from his kick holder position and hit Scott Simmons to convert a 2-point conversion to make it 14-8.
Apollo marched right back and scored on a 4-yard run of their own by Kylen Green to widen their lead to 21-8 with 9:00 left in the first half.
Apollo kept on attempting pooch kicks but Ironwood Ridge had adjusted and the result was a short field for the Nighthawks the rest of the night. Braunreiter gained 48 yards on the next drive and he plunged in from 1 yard out to cut the Apollo lead down to 21-15.
The Nighthawk defense held strong on Apollo’s next drive but Gungl turned a third down on his own 40 to a first down on the Ironwood Ridge 32 after he hit Braxton Nickerson on a 28-yard pass up the middle.
Gungl would go on and convert on another third down but their drive stalled at the 18 yard line and a field goal would widen the lead back up a bit to 24-15 with 1:16 left in the first half.
Jake Vartanian returned the next kickoff to the 50 to give Ironwood Ridge excellent field position with 1:07 left.
Three rushes moved the ball to the 37 and a penalty moved it back to the 42 with 25 seconds left but Vartanian ripped off a 19-yard run to move the ball to the 23 with 15 seconds left.
A personal foul moved the ball up to the 11 yard line and Williams ran it in from there to cut the lead down to 24-22 at the half.
Apollo had only gained 45 yards on the ground in the first half but 137 passing yards helped keep them ahead of Ironwood Ridge. By contrast, Ironwood Ridge had gained over 200 yards rushing to set the tone on the line.
Apollo had not taken advantage of their early start and they let Ironwood Ridge off the hook. The fumbles, pooch kicks and timely passing had not produced the lead they thought they deserved and The Ridge made them pay the rest of the way.
Ironwood Ridge took the opening kick to start the second half and Williams put Ironwood Ridge up 29-24 on a 5-yard run with 8:39 left.
Ball control had been established by Ironwood Ridge and they gave Apollo a piece of revenge after Sam Ross recovered a short kick to put the Nighthawks back on track. Williams was intercepted in the end zone on the drive but Apollo punted and the Nighthawks got the ball back.
Williams put up a 24-yard run to start the next drive and he hit Simmons on a 13-yard pass to end it, giving the Nighthawks a 35-24 lead after the extra point was missed.
Apollo missed another field goal and Williams scored again to put Ironwood Ridge up 42-24 with 8:46 left in the game.
Apollo got some back after Green ran one in from 4 yards out but they also missed an extra point to make the score 42-30. Ironwood Ridge gave the ball back on downs but Simmons intercepted Green to end all threats.
Braunreiter tied his season-high total with 207 yards rushing and Williams ran for 131 more. Vartanian added 61 to help push the Nighthawks ground game over 400 yards on the night while Apollo was stalled at 84.
Gungl did pass for 230 yards but he went 14-30 in the process. His teammates Abe Mendivil and Green each attempted passes late in the game with Green throwing the interception. Williams went 8-9 for 75 yards.
Apollo fell to 10-2 and Ironwood Ridge improved to 11-1. All four of the top seeds advanced to the D-II semifinal round so Ironwood Ridge will travel to Campo Verde High School to face 2 seed Marcos de Niza (11-1) next Friday night.
Top seed Salpointe (12-1) plays 4 seed Centennial (11-1) next Friday at Amphitheater High School. Ironwood Ridge’s sole loss was to Salpointe and Centennial’s loss was to Ironwood Ridge.
14 seed Nogales (10-2) upset 11 seed Sunrise Mountain (9-3) 22-8 to qualify for the D-III semifinal round against undefeated 2 seed Queen Creek (12-0).
That game will be played at Campo Verde next Saturday night.
Cienega knocked Ironwood Ridge out of the semifinals last year while Salpointe has been absent from the semifinal round since 2000. Nogales found out their appeal to stay in D-III next year was denied by the AIA. The Apaches will move up to D-II with Salpointe and Ironwood Ridge.
Friday, November 9
1 Salpointe beat 9 Mountain View, 35-7
3 Ironwood Ridge beat 6 Apollo (10-2), 42-30
Friday, November 16, 7 pm
1 Salpointe vs. 4 Centennial at Amphitheater
3 Ironwood Ridge vs. 2 Marco de Niza at Campo Verde
Friday, November 9
14 Nogales beat 11 Sunrise Mountain, 22-8
Saturday, November 17, 7 pm
14 Nogales vs. 2 Queen Creek at Campo Verde
Saturday, November 10, 3 pm
12 Empire (8-3) vs. 4 Snowflake (9-2) at Washington High School
Saturday, November 10, 3 pm
6 Thatcher (10-1) vs. 3 Tempe Prep (9-2) at Higley High School