Two fourth-quarter defensive stops helped the Cienega Bobcats fend off Ironwood Ridge and clinch the team’s second straight victory.
With the game tied 14-14 in the second quarter, Cienega went on to score 17 unanswered points in the 31-21 win over the Nighthawks.
Ironwood Ridge running back Jordan Thomas accounted for all three of his team’s touchdowns and over 200 scrimmage yards, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the second-half deficit.
“We had a chance there at the end, but we didn’t execute as a team,” Thomas said. “It’s hard to come back from 17 points, especially when Cienega is running the ball and the clock is ticking.”
The Bobcats’ defense stepped up when it mattered most in the fourth quarter, forcing two straight turnover-on-downs to end the game.
“Our defense came through. Our guys were resilient,” Cienega head coach Justin Argraves said. “That was a wild game.”
Both times, Ironwood Ridge brought the ball deep into Cienega territory — one of which went all the way inside the 5-yard line — before the Bobcats ultimately battened down the hatches defensively.
From start to finish, there were highlight plays in every quarter for both teams.
Cienega opened up the night with a goal-line stand against the Nighthawks that set the tone.
Both defenses had the advantage early on until Cienega’s Elias Santana returned a punt near midfield all the way back for the game’s opening score in the second quarter.
From there, Ironwood Ridge found ways to get the ball into the hands of their best player, running back Jordan Thomas.
With his team down 14-7, Thomas took his sixth carry of the game and ran it 75 yards for a touchdown. Thomas ran with patience and speed for much of the game, finishing with 145 yards on the ground and another 95 yards receiving.
“He’s a tremendous athlete,” Argraves said. “We were lucky to make a little bit more plays than they did at the end.”
Cienega running back Richtie McCormack traded blows with his rushing counterpart, scoring twice on the evening. Both his runs came inside the 5-yard line and it looked like he was going to be stopped short on each occasion before using a strong second-effort to get into the end zone.
“It looked like he was stonewalled,” Argarves said of McCormack. “That’s a testament to what they do in the weight room.”
For the senior McCormack, he’s now up to a team-high six rushing touchdowns on the year. His backfield mate Cole McFarland is next with three.
“I want to shout out my offensive line because they did a great job blocking for me and those two touchdowns wouldn’t have been possible without them,” he said. “I just wanted to score because our team really wants to make the playoffs and we needed those points tonight.”
The Bobcats improve to 3-3 on the season, while the Nighthawks fall to 2-4.
Cienega hosts Nogales next Friday and Ironwood Ridge returns home to host Sunnyside.