High school football
Peabody, Helu lead way as Ironwood Ridge rolls past rival Mountain View
Fireworks lit up the sky as Ironwood Ridge’s football team took the field on Friday night and it didn’t take long for the Nighthawks to pick up the show from there.
I-Ridge scored touchdowns on each of its first three possessions and amassed 601 yards of offense to beat neighborhood rival Mountain View 44-18 on homecoming night.
“We executed a lot better, we did a lot of good things,” I-Ridge coach Matt Johnson said. “You want to come out and take care of your home field. That was a big win for us.”
Two-way senior Daniel Peabody scored two touchdowns and combined for 189 yards rushing and receiving while senior running back Soma Helu plowed his way through the Mountain View defense for 178 yards on 26 carries.
“We had a tough loss last week and that motivated us to get out and practice hard,” Peabody said. “Our goal isn’t to win every game of the season, it’s to win state. We’re trying to get better so we came out and made a statement.”
The Nighthawks, ranked sixth in 5A, totaled 428 yards rushing to bounce back from their first loss off the season at No. 7 Queen Creek last week. Senior quarterback Cole Gerken – who threw two interceptions in the 37-12 loss – rebounded well by completing 8 of 11 passes for 173 yards and two scores.
“Our running game took off,” Gerken said. “The offensive line just dominated; they couldn’t do anything to stop us.”
The victory was especially important for Ironwood in setting the tone for play in the 5A Southern region, with and second-ranked Cienega leading the way. On top of that, Peabody said it always means a little more when they’re playing Mountain View.
“This is it,” Peabody said. “I think this is the new Oro Valley Super Bowl.”
Mountain View (4-2) entered the showdown riding a four-game winning streak but ended up suffering their first loss since their season opener. Also, the Mountain Lions lost to I-Ridge for the third straight season and the ninth time in 10 meetings overall.
Last year’s game came down to overtime. Things were over early this time.
I-Ridge (5-1) relied heavily on its ground game in the first half on its way to taking a big lead early. Nathan Grijalva, a sophomore, scored on a 3-yard run and then Peabody added another touchdown to make it 14-0. Nick Brahler, a junior, rushed for his first of two touchdowns late in the second quarter to put the Nighthawks up 21-6 at halftime.
“The goal was to just get in the end zone on every drive,” Helu said. “We learned from a lot of our mistakes we made last week and I think we put forth a lot of effort this week and it paid off.”
I-Ridge’s rush-heavy first half opened up for a passing attack in the second half. Gerken found junior Noah Pallanes for a 66-yard touchdown with 4:04 left in the third quarter and then connected with Peabody for a 25-yard score in the final minute of the period, giving the Nighthawks a commanding 37-6 lead.
“You only get these moments a couple times,” Peabody said. “This I probably my favorite game ever, to date. It’s probably my best game for sure.”
I-Ridge travels to play at Sierra Vista Buena and Tucson High over the next two weeks. Meanwhile, Mountain View hosts unbeaten Desert View on Friday with a chance to get back on the winning track. With the region out of their control, the Mountain Lions could have to focus on securing an at-large bid for the state playoffs based on overall ranking.
“My kids have got to realize that you’ve got to play hard,” Mountain View coach Clarence McRae said. “You play a team like Ironwood Ridge and you know you’re going to get their best shot. The definitely came out and they were the more physical team. They deserved to beat us up tonight.”