They have formed a brotherhood since growing up together from their first days on the football field in first grade.
From flag football at 6 years old to the 3A state semifinal game Saturday with Pusch Ridge Christian Academy, sophomore standouts Bryce Jewell, Will Way and Tyler Mustain have practically been inseparable.
“Getting to know them, see them change as people and see they become better men, better football players, it’s been huge,” Way said. “They definitely push me to be a better person and a better football player. They also push me in the classroom as well.
“They are crazy smart. Always working with them, they push me to work harder on and off the field and I can’t thank them enough for that.”
The trio, which has started at Pusch Ridge since last year as freshmen, have helped rejuvenate the Lions into the state title contending program it was five years ago when Way’s older brother Casey was a freshman.
Pusch Ridge finished 13-1 with a Division IV state championship in 2015 when older brothers of current players Evan Lovett and Phillip Raica were with the Lions. James Raica was Pusch Ridge’s leading rusher in 2015 and Edwin Lovett was one of the top receivers.
Pusch Ridge first-year coach Kent Middleton is not spewing coachspeak when he says the Lions (8-1) have a unique sense of family as they head into the state semifinal game against Yuma Catholic (9-0) at Scottsdale Coronado on Saturday at 6 p.m.
“Obviously, those three guys are great football players,” Middleton said of Jewel, Mustain and Way. “But they’re great kids so they’re easy to like. They have a good sense of humor. They are intelligent. They’re fun to be around.
“You don’t look at them as being sophomores or freshmen. They’re just part of the team and they fit right in.”
— Javier Morales (@JavierJMorales) December 3, 2020
They all have older brothers they have tried to emulate on the field as well — Will with Casey, Bryce with Kannon (a senior with the Lions) and Tyler with CJ (who excelled at Ironwood Ridge).
Their family bond builds confidence while preparing for what would be a stressful situation for most sophomores — a chance to advance to the 3A state title game.
Yuma Catholic is undefeated but the Shamrocks barely survived 14-7 at home in the second week of the season against Pusch Ridge.
Bryce Jewell, a cornerback, picked off a pass by Yuma Catholic super sophomore quarterback Richard Stallworth and returned it 99 yards for a touchdown. Stallworth completed 25 of 36 passes for 322 yards. His two touchdown passes accounted for the Shamrocks’ scoring. For the season, Stallworth has operated what resembles an Air Raid offense to near perfection, completing 198 of 291 pass attempts for 3,545 yards with 44 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Tyler Mustain, a linebacker, led the Lions with 15 tackles, two for loss, against Yuma Catholic. Mustain is the team’s leading tackler for the season with 71, including nine tackles for loss. He is adapted to playing with a broken left hand in Pusch Ridge’s last two convincing wins over Gilbert Christian and Wickenburg.
Will Way, a defensive end and tight end, had a quarterback hurry in the game against Yuma Catholic. He also has been banged up recently with a high ankle sprain that kept him out of the game in the second half against Gilbert Christian. He returned strongly against Wickenburg last week with six tackles, two of them sacks. He called it his best game of his young Pusch Ridge career. He has 33 tackles this season with five for loss.
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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.