The storyline was different but the script stayed the same Friday night at Campo Verde High School in Gilbert as Tucson Ironwood Ridge took control early and cruised to a 35-21 win over Tempe Marcos de Niza in the Division II semi-finals.
It was a chance at redemption for the Padres who suffered their only regular season loss to the Nighthawks 35-27 on September 21.
Things started off well for the Friars (11-2) as they took the open kicking off and methodically marched down the field before talented senior running back Mauriece Lee scampered in from nine yards out for a quick 7-0 lead.
The lead was short-lived as Ironwood Ridge (12-1) controlled the ball and the clock taking a 12-7 lead into halftime. The Hawks undersized, yet scrappy offensive line opened big holes for shifty quarterback Tyler Williams and Anthony Braunreiter while the defense held the high-powered Padres offense in check.
IRHS turned up the defensive intensity even more in the second half holding Lee and the Marcos offense to just 280 total yards and only 119 in the air. Andrew Molina threw for over 400 in their first meeting just under two months ago. What’s even more impressive was a large chunk of those yards Friday came in the final quarter when the game was basically over.
In the end MDN had no answer for the senior tandem of Williams and Braunreiter who combined for 416 rushing yards and five scores.
The Nighthawks move on to face D-II power Centennial in the finals November 24 at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe. The Coyotes (12-1) knocked off top-seeded Tucson Salpointe 28-14 in the other semi-final matchup. Coincidentally, their only loss was to Ironwood Ridge in late September.