The blue and white paint covering the faces of the Ironwood Ridge football fans didn’t go to waste.
Anthony Braunreiter’s three consecutive touchdowns led the Nighthawks to a 36-0 victory over rival Canyon Del Oro High School on Friday night.
The 5-foot, 8-inch, 205-pound senior tailback answered any lingering questions as to whether the team’s running game would still be effective without star running back Mitch Fischer, who graduated last year.
Quarterback Tyler Williams and wide receiver Julian Figueroa led the opening charge downfield to put Braunreiter in striking distance, but a sack by CDO defensive lineman Jacob Parker would force the Nighthawks to third and 19.
Williams answered, connecting with wide receiver Jake Matthews for a gain of 12, and the Nighthawks called a timeout to discuss their option on a fourth and seven.
Out of the huddle, Williams found an open Matthews for a gain of eight and the first down, bringing the ball to the Dorados’ 10-yard line. Braunreiter then got busy with gains six and four in his next two runs to find his way untouched into the end zone.
Despite being the smaller team, the Nighthawks executed well on defense in their first showing, and throughout the game.
Figueroa broke up a pass attempt to CDO’s Garret Andretta, and linebacker Scott Simmons stopped Dorados’ running back Isaac Chacon short of a first down to force CDO to punt in its first offensive possession. The hike was over the head of the CDO kicker, who just narrowly got the short kick away.
“Our defense did an outstanding job this game,” said Braunreiter. “They really executed perfectly, stayed aggressive, and put a lot of pressure on.”
The Nighthawks took advantage of the short field from the botched punt, and Braunreiter barreled his way through the CDO defensive line to find his second touchdown. The point after found its way through the uprights, bringing the score to 13-0 in the first quarter.
Early in the second quarter, Williams handed off to Braunreiter for a 28-yard run that would lead the Nighthawks to the CDO one-yard line.
A lateral pass from Williams then found Braunreiter, who shrugged off the CDO defenders en route to the end zone and a 20-0 lead.
Braunreiter finished the game with 11 carries and 86 yards, but credited his success to his offensive line.
“Our offensive line played perfectly this game,” he said. “They did a great job of opening up the gaps for me.”
While Braunreiter was done putting up points, Williams wasn’t done dishing them out. He went to the air again to find Simmons for a reaching touchdown grab in the corner end zone approaching the end of the second quarter.
CDO continued to struggle on offense, its running game choked up by the Nighthawks’ smothering defensive line, despite the fact Ironwood was the smaller team.
“We’ve lost some size this year, so we are looking to improve our technique on all sides of the ball,” said head coach Matt Johnson. “We’ve got a team that’s willing to work hard to do that.”
As the first half wound down, it appeared the Dorados, on the Ironwood six-yard line, would put up a touchdown, but Chacon was brought down by a rush of blue jerseys to end the half.
Chacon had 19 carries for 88 yards.
“Our defense played really fast,” said Williams. “They knew their assignments and a lot of young guys stepped up out there.”
Though the CDO defense looked sharper in the second half, it was too little too late. Williams managed to squeak in one more touchdown on a 19-yard pass to Matthews, bringing the score to 36-0, where it would remain despite a last minute push by CDO, which nearly put the Dorados on the scoreboard.
Williams was 9-9 for 93 yards, and rushed for 25 yards in the game.
“I thought we really mixed up the offense well,” said Williams. “We were able to stay patient and let our system work by spreading the ball around and getting everyone involved.”
The Nighthawks will look to continue their early success when they face Marana High School on Aug. 31. The Dorados hope to improve to 1-1 when they face Mountain View on Friday.