What looked to be by most observers as a tough first round 4A playoff game, turned into a route as Cienega manhandled Ironwood Ridge for the second time this season. Both teams making their 2nd appearances in the playoffs in as many years.
Ironwood Ridge started the game on offense and other than a 5-yard off side penalty was unable to move the ball. Cienega posted the tone of the game right away with a big sack on third and long to force a punt. After two good defensive stops up the middle, Senior running back John Olague ran through a huge hole to the left for 61 yards to the IR 5 yard line. The drive however, was stopped on a bad pitch and catch fumble that IR recovered on the 5. IR would go three and out, punting the ball short with a return to the IR 23. Cienega was stopped there by the stiff up the middle defense of IR, Cienega was able to score the first points of the game on a Valasco 21 yard field goal. IR on their next position started feeding their work horse on offense Dakota McQuay, but Cienega's bend don't brake defense was successful. IR quarterback, Ryan Crawford, completed a third down pass to WR, Cam Wierson for a first down, but was stripped of the ball by, Eddie Russel and recovered by Valasco who dashed 51 for a TD, Cienega 10 Ironwood Ridge 0. IR's next possession looked like they might start moving the ball, after 2 first downs though, Cienega stepped up the D, sacking Crawford twice forcing another punt. Again Cienega came out running the ball, after three straight Olague runs for a first down, Cienega faked the handoff, the defense, and the crowd, as Ryan Mills threw a beautiful 66 yard post pass to Chris Clayton who had beaten his defender by about 5 yards. "This seemed to be the turning point in the game, no one expected us to throw at that time" coach Neemer Hassey would tell me after the game.
After a nice return to the IR 43, IR would again go nowhere. Aided by a questionable interference call, IR was looking at a forth down and 5, Cienega corner Eddie Russel made an outstanding play to break up the pass from Crawford to Wierson. Again Cienega went to their workhorse RB John Olague, and again they shot them selves in the foot. A nice 35-yard run was called back for holding, away from the play. Cienega recovered pulling out more tricks as the IR defense front started clogging up the middle. A reverse to Mike Robinson gained 16 yards and on the next play, sophomore fullback, Chris Atkins scampered 20 yards up the middle to the 10. He was rewarded the next play with a power dive up the middle for the touchdown, Cienega led at that time 23-0. This remained the score going into half
The second half started with more of the same, running at the IR defense with Cienega pounding with, Olague, Atkins and Knight. The IR defense seamed to be rejuvenated, forcing Cienega to punt, however a running into the kicker penalty gave the ball back to Cienega in good field position. Again the IR front held fast. The ensuing punt netted only 5 yards. IR started off with a nice run by McQuay for 11 yards and a Crawford to Wierson 18 yard pass. Again, Cienega would stiffen, stopping a screen with a nice tackle by Atkins. Atkins would again show how deep this defense is with a bull rush sack on the next play, aided by Frankie Lopez and Dan Ryan causing a turnover on downs. On the next set of downs, Cienega fumbled with good field postion and had to call on the defense to step in and get the ball back. After a 14-yard pass to Isaac Mirasol, constant pressure from the Cienega defense and a great hit by Valasco and Robertson again caused a turnover on downs. IR defense was hanging in there causing a three and out, getting the ball back on their own 35. A beautiful catch by Wierson, who laid out for the ball, moved the ball 40 yards for IR. The defense held with a sack, causing a forth down and 1, which McQuay went up the middle and with a very generous spot, got the first down by an inch. On the next play, Wierson showed why he is such a threat with another great catch for a touchdown. Cienega 23, IR 7.
The ensuing onside kick only went 5 yards and Cienega got great field position but was stopped and a tired Valasco missed a 58-yard field goal by just a few feet. IR took over on the 20 and after a couple nice runs by McQuay, a huge hit by Robertson on Wierson breaking up the pass, caused a forth down in which Frankie Lopez, who was in the back field all night, hit Crawford's arm, causing the pass to go up in the air and DT Jack Wagner fought off his blocker to make the catch and rumble 48 yards for the TD. For added fun in the night, 270 pound Matt Torres kicked the PAT and entertained us with his version of the Ray Lewis dance, it was a site. Final score Cienega 30 Ironwood Ridge 7
Bottom Line: The Bobcats won this game in every facet. Speed, quickness, power, and intangibles were the keys. IR was unable to take advantage of Cienega turnovers and was unable to establish any running game, only 76 yards. The Cienega defense, missing 3 starters in the backfield, stepped up all night, and completely negated Ironwood Ridge's Daniel Borg on both sides of the LOS, not letting IR to get any momentum.
Game Balls:First and foremost, the whole Cienega DEFENSE, they played outstanding. Give one too John Olague, 130 yards rushing, and Ryan Mills, 4-5, for 90 yards, no INT's. Extra praise goes to Ironwood Ridge receiver Cameron Wierson who was hit and hit hard all night and still kept catching.