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2022 Southern Arizona high school football preview: Pusch Ridge Lions


Pusch Ridge’s Will Way and Bryce Jewell leap to block a FG attempt in practice (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

3A South: Pusch Ridge

2021 record: 8-3 overall, 3-2 3A South (third)

Head coach: Kent Middleton, 16-5, third year at Pusch Ridge and overall in his career. Middleton is a CDO grad and legendary IceCats player from the 1980’s who consistently made headlines playing for Leo Golembiewski.

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Key returners:

  • CB/SB Bryce Jewell, 5-10, 170, Sr.
  • QB Bubba Mustain, 6-1, 180, Jr.
  • RB Brysen Barrios, 5-6, 165, Sr.
  • WR/DB Cody Rafacz, 5-9, 185, Sr.
  • TE/MLB Tyler Mustain, 6-2, 220, Sr.
  • RB/LB Abraham Grajeda, 5-7, 175, Sr.
  • TE/DE Will Way, 6-4, 250, Sr.
  • WR/LB Jack Butler, 6-2, 200, Sr.

“This is a very talented ballclub. It will all depend on how we come together. I know that sounds like coaching cliche but it’s true. They’re cliches for a reason. It all depends on how we come together. We have to stay healthy, too. We’re not large in numbers. Definitely, how we get along. Hopefully, it doesn’t become a me, me, me team.” – Middleton

Tyler Mustain is a linebacker who has a scholarship offer from NAU (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

“This offseason, we had the most amount of people in the weight room. Everyone’s getting stronger collectively. Since this is our third year, we’re running our new offense and we’re starting to get it quicker. The installs don’t take as long and we can work on more stuff. That gives us more practice time and that will be helpful down the road.” – Tyler Mustain

Bubba Mustain takes over at QB for Pusch Ridge with Ryan Fontaine now at NAU (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

“It’s going good so far (the transition from receiver to quarterback). Just getting used to not playing receiver is different every single day with my every day drills. Just to be able to play a different position this year and help the team that way is a great opportunity.” – Bubba Mustain

“Compared to last year, I’m a different offensive threat. … It’s all thanks to the coaching. Where I would be really uncomfortable last year, I’m very comfortable now. Whether playing on the edge or inside it makes no difference to me because of the coaching I’ve had. The development that I’ve had is all thanks to my coaching.” – Way

Will Way has a dominant presence at the line (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Coaching staff:

  • Head coach: Kent Middleton
  • Offensive coordinator: Brent Bartz
  • Defensive coordinator: Middleton
  • Associate head coach/special teams: Calvin Knox
  • Outside linebackers/tight ends: Doyle Butler
  • Defensive/offensive line: Anthony Coronado
  • Defensive/offensive line: Soma Helu
  • Secondary: Jeff Drescher
  • Linebackers: Steve Hancock
  • Inside linebackers: Chuck Mustain
Kent Middleton is entering his third season at Pusch Ridge (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Notes: Two longtime coaches in Southern Arizona — Tommy Steele and Gary Minor — retired from Kent Middleton’s staff after last season. That opened the door for one of the top assistants in the state — Soma Helu — to fill a spot as a line coach. He comes over from Ironwood Ridge, where he was part of James Hardy’s staff. Hardy stepped down from there and is now an assistant coach at high school near Houston. … Way recently received a scholarship offer from Washington State, which plans to watch him play in an early-season game. He also has offers from Idaho State and South Dakota. … Tyler Mustain, who has received an offer from NAU, should garner a lot more interest as the season goes along. He suffered a season-ending ankle injury toward the end of last season but is healthy now. He was one of the top tacklers in the state last year with 112, 8.5 for loss. He has 17.5 tackles for loss the last two seasons. … Bubba Mustain, Tyler’s younger brother, takes over for prolific passing quarterback Ryan Fontaine, who is now at NAU. Bubba has a history of playing quarterback, including leading the TYF Oro Valley Dolphins to the 13U city championship in 2019. He was Fontaine’s top targets last year with 64 catches for 876 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Keep an eye out for: RB Brysen Barrios, a 5-foot-6 and 165-pound threat out of the backfield. Although the passing game has flourished under Middleton in his first two years as head coach, the running game has also featured 1,000-yard running backs (Evan Lovett and Xavier Grajeda). Barrios, formerly of Ironwood Ridge, has the strength and durability to help Middleton and Co. produce another prolific running back.

PUSCH RIDGE (5-0, 1-0)

Lions compete in the 3A South. *Region game. Games at 7 p.m.
DateOpponentW/LOvrReg
8/20ALA - West FoothillsW, 37-71-00-0
8/26Paradise HonorsW, 63-282-00-0
9/2@ MohaveW, 51-143-00-0
9/9@ Catalina FoothillsW, 34-94-00-0
9/16Benson*W, 59-05-01-0
9/23@ Thatcher*
9/30Sabino*
10/14Valley Christian
10/21@ Palo Verde*
10/28Safford*

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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. 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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