Ironwood Ridge over Canyon del Oro 42-14by Andy Morales on Sep. 13, 2013, under Sports
Canyon del Oro (2-1) plays in Division III and Ironwood Ridge (3-1) in Division II. Since 2005, the schools have met eight times with dominance in the series changing hands four times with the Nighthawks holding a current 5-3 advantage.
Some might call it a “heated” rivalry, others might say it’s a rivalry only because the students have grown up playing against each other in various club and middle school sports due to the close proximity of the two Amphitheater schools. There was a time when Ironwood Ridge was populated by former CDO students and faculty but that was a generation ago when The Ridge was built to alleviate overcrowding at CDO way back in 2001.
Of the eight meetings, only Ironwood Ridge’s 14-7 victory in 2006 was close. The rest of the games have been decided by two touchdowns or more. CDO beat The Ridge 31-12 in 2005 but the Nighthawks won the next two meetings.
There will never be an official word from the Amphitheater District as to why, but the two schools did not meet again until 2009. The two-year break was when the rivalry was a heated one – in all sports.
To be sure, Pat Nugent’s 12-2 2007 state runner-up team most likely would have easily defeated Gary Minor’s 8-4 squad but Minor’s 10-3 2008 team might have given Nugent’s 11-2 team a battle.
Both of those teams finished in third place with The Ridge playing in 5A-II and CDO in 4A-I. As you can see, Ironwood Ridge’s enrollment was slowly surpassing CDO’s to the point where the Nighthawks had a bigger student population to draw from and they still do.
When the series was allowed to resume in the fall of 2009, the game was moved to the top of the schedule and it stayed that way for four years. That game featured a large law enforcement presence with a strict restriction on what side the fans were allowed to visit.
Dusty Peace had taken over at CDO and he went on to go undefeated (14-0) to capture the state title and he guided CDO to a 13-1 season the following year. Matt Johnson had taken over at Ironwood Ridge and he had to endure the Ka’Deem Carey years until he turned the corner in 2011.
Counting his 42-14 win Thursday night, Johnson has guided his squad to three straight victories over CDO by scores of 28-7, 36-0 and 42-14. His 13-1 2012 team won a state championship.
On Thursday night, there were plenty of blue shirts on CDO’s side and a few green shirts on the other side. It did not matter if some goofball burned their school’s initials on CDO’s field, it did not spark a confrontation off the field. But, unfortunately for CDO, it also did not spark a confrontation on the field.
The game is no longer a season-opener. Ironwood Ridge still has tough games ahead with Buena, Tucson, Mountain View and Salpointe on the horizon. The only thing Nighthawk fans will remember from their game at CDO will be that they won it. Ironwood Ridge will need every victory it can get to make it back to the playoffs in that tough division.
CDO also exposed a weakness in Ironwood Ridge’s pass defense. Despite the heroic performance from Ironwood Ridge sophomore sensation Jared McKemy with his two interceptions, CDO QB Jordan Closs-Lopez burned the corners with 307 yards on only 13 completions. Had he hit open receivers and CDO not dropped a few passes, Closs-Lopez might have thrown for over 400 yards.
At its worse, on one completion to the outside, Ironwood Ridge did not even send a defender out to guard John Jackson and he pulled down a 41-yard pass to set up a CDO touchdown.
But, one glitch in Ironwood Ridge’s defense was not enough and CDO could not take advantage. Ironwood Ridge gained over 100 yards on its first two drives but gave the ball back on downs twice while CDO was held to only five total yards on its first couple of drives but the score was still 0-0 with 1:23 left in the first quarter.
Jake Vartanian changed all that with a 63-yard dash to put Ironwood Ridge up 7-0 with 46.7 seconds left in the opening quarter. Vartanian would end the game with 164 yards on 22 carries and three touchdowns.
CDO got the ball back and they drove down to tie it 7-7 thanks to Jackson’s 41-yard catch and an 11-yard touchdown pass to Walker Padilla. Dylan Key hit Matthew Solverson on a 6-yard touchdown to put The Ridge up 14-7 and then Vartanian ran another one in with 31.1 seconds left in the first half to go up 21-7.
Vartanian scored to open up the second half and Ryan Quinn caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from Michael Franzese to go up 35-7 with 3:17 left in the third.
CDO standout JJ Metz pulled down 85 yards in the game including a 28-yard strike to make the score 35-14 with 11:28 left in the game. Thomas Gutierrez rushed for 78 yards for Ironwood Ridge and he scored from 3 yards out to make the score 42-14.
Cole McLafferty picked up 82 more yards for Ironwood Ridge. CDO finished with 35 yards rushing but Ironwood Ridge gained 517 yards in total offense. Max Smith caught one pass for 72 yards to add to CDO’s 342 yards of offense.
The game will always be considered a rivalry due to proximity but, in the end, it is just another game on the schedule between two teams in different divisions and CDO is still in good shape heading into the rest of their season.
The Dorados will travel to Cienega (1-2) next Friday and Ironwood Ridge will be hosting Buena (1-1).