Tucson Ironwood Ridge ran right up Marcos de Niza's gut and gave it a proverbial punch on its way by.
A rematch of last year's midseason meeting went much the same: nifty for the Nighthawks and painful for the Padres.
Though not huge up front, Ironwood Ridge quarterback Tyler Williams and his bevy of backfield mates found holes all night and the Padres struggled with special teams and, at time, on defense.
Marcos' 35-27 loss at home to Ironwood Ridge popped the Padres' undefeated start to the season, and it stung mightily afterward.
The Nighthawks (5-0) have been to the past two state semifinals in Division II/5A Division II, and will move closer to Peoria Centennial atop the rankings. Coincidentally, those two schools play each other next week.
The Padres (4-1) will regroup, as the schedule lightens up considerably for the rest of the regular season, but they lamented one hand's worth of plays, looking for a redux.
This one stung, so no such luck, and Padres coach Roy Lopez admitted the film review of this game could be painful to watch at times.
There were plenty of positives. Josh Eckley threw for 374 yards and three touchdowns, and ran in a two-point conversion. Paul Elvira had 164 yards receiving and two touchdowns by halftime and the Padres passing game came to life even more early in the fourth quarter.
The Padres also forced three turnovers without committing any of their own.
They couldn't, however, stop the Ironwood Ridge rushing attack. Williams juked, cut and darted through the interior of the Padres defense for 174 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
That wasn't even half of Ironwood Ridge's 378 yards rushing as a team on 51 carries, as Anthony Braunreiter (136 yards) and Jake Vartanian (59 yards) got into the act.
"How about Tyler Williams?" Lopez said. "He controlled the game."
Before that, Marcos had two punts and an extra point blocked in the first quarter, and "that hurt us bad early on," according to Lopez.
Through all that, the Padres still had a chance to tie the score late in the third quarter. After Elvira's two TD catches pulled Marcos within 21-20 at halftime, Ironwood Ridge led 28-20 and successfully milked the clock and chewed up yardage most of the third quarter.
That is, until the Nighthawks lost their second fumble of the game and Marcos recovered. But the Padres stalled and were forced to punt, and Ironwood Ridge reeled off a 30-yard run to set up Braunreiter's four-yard TD run to make it 35-20 to begin the fourth quarter.
Suddenly, the Padres - who couldn't run the ball all night and mostly threw in the second half - got hot. Given ample cusion because of their athleticism, Eckley found Elvira, Jaquese Moore and Taylor Blankenship, and the Padres marched down the field in five plays. Moore's 28-yard reception pulled the Padres back to within 35-28 with 9:42 left.
"The plays they made weren't by accident, and I told our team to keep fighting," Ironwood Ridge coach Matt Johnson said. "We didn't do anything wrong, they were that good."
Again, Ironwood Ridge fumbled and Marcos recovered near midfield. But after breezing its way down to the Ironwood Ridge 10-yard line, the Padres stalled. After a penalty, two failed runs and a sack, the Padres went for it on fourth-and-goal from the 18, but the pass was incomplete.
Lopez said he considered kicking a field goal but went with his staff, which wanted to go for it.
Ironwood Ridge sealed the deal in the final four minutes by successfully running out the clock, including and fourth-and-centimeters at midfield with two minutes to play.
Who else but Williams sealed the win.
"I don't think we played to our potential, and that's nothing away from what (Ironwood Ridge) did here," Lopez said.
Ironwood Ridge 35, Marcos de Niza 27
IR 14 7 7 7 -- 35
MDN 6 14 0 7 -- 27
First Downs: IR 17, MDN 13
Rushing: IR 51-378, MDN 14-26
Passing: IR 4-10-51-1, MDN 18-31-374-0
Fumbles: IR 3-2, MDN 1-0
Penalties: 7-50, 7-55
IR - Vartanian 29 run (Farmer kick)
MDN - Lee 3 run (kick failed)
IR - Braunreiter 5 run (Farmer kick)
MDN - Elvira 13 pass from Eckley (pass failed)
IR - Williams 17 run (Farmer kick)
MDN - Elvira 33 pass from Eckley (Eckley run)
IR - Williams 48 run (Farmer kick)
IR - Braunreiter 4 run (Farmer kick)
MDN - Johnson 21 pass from Eckley (Farmer kick)
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.