Ironwood Ridge uses run attack to hold off Cienega 17-7

August 30, 2014 by Andy Morales, AZPreps365

Ironwood Ridge quarterback Michael Franzese (Andy Morales)

Ironwood Ridge senior quarterback Michael Franzese calls it the "Ground and Pound" which actually turns out to be a way simpler explanation than anyone can come up with for the misdirection-heavy double wing offense the Nighthawks have installed this year.

Although the result of the motion offense only accounted for a couple of touchdowns in their 17-7 victory over Cienega, the over 300 yards gained on the ground helped keep the ball out of Cienega's hands. 

"Our linemen are key," explained Franzese.  "They made my job easier by giving me holes to run. It's a quick pace offense and we can get a lot out of it."

The scheme involves Franzese as the main QB but others in the backfield can also take the direct snap. It takes a lot of discipline from the line because they cannot move until all the motion has taken place. There were a handful of times where they were unable to maintain their stances but, for the most part, the line has perfected the discipline required.

Still, Cienega had a chance, down only 10-7 with 4:55 left in the game, but an incomplete pass on a fourth-and-3 gave the ball back to Ironwood Ridge at their own 45-yard line.

Cienega quarterback Adriell Alvarado had two main targets early in the game with Terrence Johnson (11-71) and Matt Aragon (6-63) controlling the field but Ironwood Ridge was able to come up with stops when they needed them.

Both teams started the game with punts but the Nighthawks were able to keep their drive alive after Jared McKemy recovered a muff that hit the leg of a Cienega player down field. Ironwood Ridge failed to take advantage, however, and Cienega was able to take over on downs.

Ironwood Ridge forced Cienega to punt and Austin Goddard broke through the line and forced Aragon to scramble rather than punt. Aragon was able to use his speed and turned a potential disaster into a first down to keep the drive alive.

Like Ironwood Ridge, Cienega was unable to take advantage and handed the ball back on downs as the first quarter was winding down.  Dalton Pakkala ripped off a 38-yard dash to help spark the Nighthawks but they had to settle for a 25-yard field goal from Nathan Farmer to go up 3-0 with 8:57 left in the first half.

Alvarado took over and orchestrated an 80-yard drive to take a 7-3 lead with Francisco Dicochea pitching in with a 26-yard dash in the drive. Franzese responded with his own drive that resulted in a 12-yard touchdown pass thrown to Christopher Babyak with 48.7 seconds left to help build a 10-7 lead.

That almost proved to be too much time left after Cienega benefitted from a long return on the kickoff to set the ball up at midfield with 36.2 seconds left. Alvarado was able to get down to the 33 with 8 seconds left but he was sacked to end the half on the next play.

A confusing set of downs on the Nighthawk's opening drive of the third quarter gave Cienega the ball back on downs at their own 6-yard line when, in reality, Franzese had set up a fourth-and-2 after an 18-yard pass to Nico Abeyta was completed.

The confusion came as a result of a false start after a first down that was somehow counted as a down. The mistake turned out to be a moot point but it could have cost the Nighthawks the game.

Both teams punted and then Cienega gave up the ball on downs to set up Ironwood Ridge's final score, a 3-yard dash by Franzese for the 17-7 margin.

Matt Johnson congratulated his offensive scout team for preparing his defense for the Cienega attack. They have adopted the term, "Flap Jack City" for how his line is playing and putting opponents on the ground.

"They are a playoff team," Johnson told his team. "They are a great team. Be humble and be respectful."

Nemer Hassey held a similar tone at the other end of the field. "This is playoff football," Hassey offered. "It's tough football. There are 100 ways to reach our goals and we need to play teams like this."

One of those ways will be with the abilities of 6-foot-3 Johnson. A highly rated prospect, Johnson is both difficult to guard on the pass and difficult to throw at when he is on defense.

"We finally got a taste of blood," explained Johnson. "We made some mental mistakes so we need to get to the film and fix it."

Cienega (0-1) will host Mountain View (1-0) next Friday. Mountain View defeated Cienega 21-0 last year which ultimately helped keep the Bobcats out of the playoffs. In fact, the Mountain Lions have a 3-game win streak going against Cienega.

Ironwood Ridge (1-1) will host Glendale Apollo (1-0). Apollo beat The Ridge 35-28 at home last year.


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