When you turn the ball over with frequency, your defense better come to the rescue.
That was clearly the case Friday night as Glendale Ironwood coughed up the ball four times (three fumbles and one interception), but managed to survive in a 14-3 win over visiting St. Mary’s.
The Eagles defense responded by limiting the Knights' running game to 2 yards for the game.
In the middle, Ironwood got a strong game from running back Michael Alexander and a ground game which totaled 262 yards.
“We have several third string players now starting and they have responded to the challenge,” said Ironwood coach Ian Curtis. “Defense has become our focus, and we’re getting the commitment. The players are following the football and that’s getting us in the right direction.”
The fact that St. Mary’s (0-2) likes to throw played into the collective hands of the Eagles’ defense. Knights quarterback Joseph Federico was effective in completing crossing patterns. He finished with a 15-for-28 night, 129 yards but no touchdowns.
Outside of a 21-yard field goal from Nick Perry with 1:02 remaining in the first half, the deepest St. Mary’s penetration was the Ironwood 14-yard line. That was in the third quarter, when Justin Templeton recovered a fumbled punt.
From that point, two complete passes lost a combined 20 yards, and the Knights punted.
With St. Mary’s ineffective in running the ball, the Eagles' swarming defense took full advantage, and limited the Knight ground game to those 2 net yards on 17 carries.
“We had a lack of focus, and followed a horrible week of practice,” St. Mary's coach Todd Williamson. “We came out and played OK on the both sides of the ball, but we didn’t move it effectively. It’s back to the drawing board and work harder.”
The St. Mary’s effort did not escape attention.
“That’s a gusty group of kids,” Curtis said of the Knights. “They played hard and played tough. We were clearly fortunate to have the ball bounce our way.”
Meanwhile, the Eagles generated enough offense to gain the win. Junior running back Alexander, at 5-foot-11 and 240 pounds, appeared to carry as many tacklers as yards gained. In the end, he led the Eagles with 133 yards on 18 carries and the scored the lone touchdown on the ground. In the first half alone, Alexander picked up 90 yards on 12 carries.
Behind Alexander's effort, Ironwood quarterback Kyle Zoeliner engineered a six-play, 63-yard drive which culminated in Alexander’s 8-yard touchdown run with 4:59 remaining before halftime that put the Eagles into the lead for good.
The Eagles struck again late in the third period. This time, Zoeliner connected with wide receiver Abram Chairez on a 12-yard scoring strike and that play closed out the scoring.
Zoeliner finished with 72 yards on the ground on eight carries, and was 6-for-11 passing for 59 yards with an interception. Senior running back Matt Paparelia chipped in 56 yards on 10 carries.