The Willow Canyon High School football team dug a hole it couldn't climb out of Friday night. Ironwood Ridge built a 19-point lead in the third quarter and held on for a 19-14 victory in the Willow Canyon home opener in Surprise. Ironwood Ridge improved its record to 1-2. Willow Canyon dropped to 2-1. "They were more physical than our players in the first half," said Mike Hudnutt, Willow Canyon coach. "We really didn't make that many adjustments at halftime, but just told our kids they were going to have to come out and play more physical." Willow Canyon scored on its first two possessions of the second half. Quarterback Trey Clarida hit wide receiver Chris Robinson with a 57-yard touchdown pass with 2 minutes, 54 seconds left in the third quarter. Clarida then scrambled for the two-point conversion to cut the lead to 19-8. Willow Canyon failed to convert the subsequent onside kick, but got the ball back on a fumble recovery by Micah Henige. The Wildcats proceeded to go 67 yards on 11 plays, capped by a highlight-reel 16-yard touchdown run by BJ Scott. The junior missed last week's game against Tolleson because of a sprained ankle, but returned to action in the second quarter against Ironwood Ridge. Scott started to his right on the touchdown run, reversed his field and left the Ironwood Ridge defense in his wake for the score with 8:05 left in the game. "The kids didn't quit on the play and they deserve a lot of praise for that," Hudnutt said. "In fact, they could have easily quit at halftime, but they came back and played hard." The two-point conversion failed and would account for the 19-14 final margin. Willow Canyon had two chances to pull out the win, but failed to convert both times. The first possession occurred after Willow Canyon recovered an onside kick following Scott's score. Scott got behind the Ironwood Ridge defense on a third-down play, but then juggled and dropped a would-be touchdown pass at the 20-yard line. The Wildcats then turned the ball over on downs after Ironwood Ridge sacked Clarida on a fourth-down play. "If BJ makes that catch, we probably go up 21-19," Hudnutt said. "But in BJ's defense, it's hard to be sharp when you haven't been able to practice for two weeks." Willow Canyon got the ball back with 3:03 left, but could get no farther than its own 40-yard line before Ironwood Ridge got the ball back on downs and ran out the clock. Penalties played a key role as Ironwood Ridge built a 16-0 halftime lead. The Nighthawks benefited from a roughing-the-kicker penalty on their first touchdown and took advantage of three personal fouls en route to another score. One of the penalties was called against Hudnutt, who had an animated discussion with the referee in the second quarter and another on the way to the locker room at halftime. "Officials don't win or lose the game," Hudnutt said. "We probably had some calls go our way in the second half." The Wildcats also had a touchdown called back in the first quarter when the Willow Canyon offensive line pushed Clarida into the end zone on a 1-yard keeper. "That was the right call," Hudnutt said. "Our guys pushed him into the end zone." Willow Canyon relied on its passing game than it had in its previous two contests. Clarida completed 8 of 15 passes for 156 yards and one touchdown. Justin Weber led the Willow Canyon receivers with four catches for 73 yards. "We knew we were going to have to throw the ball more tonight," Hudnutt said. "That was part of the game plan." Willow Canyon plays host to Camelback at 7 p.m. this Thursday.