2021 Southern Arizona High School Football Preview: Ironwood Ridge

Ironwood Ridge’s players are eager for a season after playing on two last season because of COVID-19 (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

5A Sonoran: Ironwood Ridge

2020 record: 0-2 before COVID-19 protocol cut the season short.

Head coach: James Hardy Jr., 5-8 third season at Ironwood Ridge and overall. Before becoming the offensive line coach at CDO, Hardy worked as an assistant at several high schools and junior colleges in Los Angeles area. He was as an offensive assistant and track and field coach at Quartz Hill and Antelope Valley high schools, offensive assistant coach at Lancaster and Eastside high schools, and offensive line and assistant coach at Los Angeles Valley and Antelope Valley colleges from 2011-18. When Hardy moved to Tucson and coached at CDO in 2018, the Dorados’ offense averaged 242.5 yards rushing behind Stevie Rocker Jr. and 182.5 passing yards per game.

Key returners:

  • QB Tyler Haynie, 5-9, 160, Sr.
  • RB/CB Jordan Thomas, 5-11, 165, Jr.
  • LT/DE Sam Benjamin, 6-5, 265, Sr.
  • WR/P Hudson Thompson, 6-3, 195, Sr.
  • WR/CB Luke Fanelli, 6-1, 180, Sr.
Jordan Thomas (second from right) has taken on a leadership role as a junior (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Coaching staff:

  • Head coach: James Hardy Jr.
  • Offensive coordinator: Aaron Ravenell
  • Defensive coordinator/running backs: Ray Morales
  • Linebackers: Isaac Perez
  • Wide receivers/defensive backs: Thad Variance
  • Special teams: Ben Ambrosio
James Hardy Jr. and his staff want to establish continuity in the program (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Notes: Keep an eye on the further development of senior LT/DE Sam Benjamin, who garnered interest from Arizona coaches when he attended Jedd Fisch’s camp in June. Tremendous size and strength at 6-foot-5 and 265 pounds. … After a three-way competition at quarterback last season, senior Tyler Haynie is ready to take on the responsibility as the clear-cut starting quarterback. … RB Jordan Thomas also attended Fisch’s camp and has already been named a captain for Ironwood Ridge despite being only a junior. In the Nighthawks’ two games last year, Thomas rushed for 164 yards on 25 carries, including 111 yards on 16 carries against a veteran Cienega defense. … TE/DE Myles Amey, also a high-level baseball prospect, has transferred to Gilbert Higley High School for his senior season. Amey’s father Vince Amey is a former ASU standout lineman who was an assistant coach with Arizona and Marana High School before serving on Ironwood Ridge’s staff last year. … Ironwood Ridge kicks off against a peculiar opponent — Ironwood — on Friday at home. Three consecutive home games against 5A Sonoran opponents Sunnyside, Rincon/University and Nogales in late October and early November could prove to be vital for the Nighthawks.




ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District

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