2023 High School Football

Pusch Ridge continues to take care of business, improves to 4-0 after beating Catalina Foothills

Kent Middleton and his program have been taking care of business by winning 31 games in less than three years since he won his first game as a head coach at Pusch Ridge (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Pusch Ridge coach Kent Middleton talks of his band of players and coaches at Pusch Ridge as “TCB,” similar to how his idol Elvis called his touring music group by the same acronym in the late 1960s.

It stands for “Taking Care of Business.”

The Lions continued that motto Thursday, defeating visiting Catalina Foothills 28-13 on Homecoming Night, to improve to 4-0. The TCB theme took shape this season in the opener against Show Low at NAU’s Walkup Skydome in Flagstaff on Aug. 25, when the Lions scored all 24 of their points in the second half, including 17 in the fourth quarter, to rally from a 21-0 deficit to win 24-21.

“I was a huge Elvis fan,” Middleton said. “There’s a lot of stuff we’ve got to clean up, big time. We’re going into the meat of our schedule. Tonight was a great test. After that, it’s 3A South. It’s Gauntlet Row.”

After traveling next Friday to play San Tan Foothills, a showdown at Sabino the following week takes place in the Lions’ 3A South opener.

Pusch Ridge senior Bubba Mustain is one of the top quarterbacks in the state (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Pusch Ridge is one of the last seven unbeaten teams in Southern Arizona almost midway through the season, exceeding expectations of those outside the program based on the players Middleton and his staff lost from last year’s team that went 11-2.

Defensive tackle Will Way, linebacker Tyler Mustain and wide receiver/cornerback Bryce Jewell were an elite senior core last season.

Each of them played a significant role with the Lions since their sophomore seasons in 2020 when Middleton took over as head coach.

They are a major reason why Middleton — an Arizona IceCats star in the 1980s — is 31-7 so soon after experiencing his first win as a head coach less than three years ago, on Oct. 3, 2020.

Although without Way (now at Weber State), Mustain (Arizona preferred walk-on) and Jewell (Colorado School of Mines), Pusch Ridge keeps rolling along.

A significant reason for the TCB movement going strong — senior quarterback Bubba Mustain, one of the best at his position in the state.

Tyler’s brother, who is 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, generated star status in 2019 when he led the Oro Valley Dolphins to the TYFSF 13U city championship along with CDO senior standout linemen Sa’Kylee Woodard and Morgan Narcaroti.

Bubba’s first name is Jacob but he goes by a childhood nickname that stuck.

Playing without his brother and Way and Jewell for the first time since his Dolphins days has developed a “next-man-up mentality” within the team, Bubba Mustain said.

“We’re not dwelling on the past; we’re living in the present,” Bubba Mustain said. “All gas, no breaks, and see how we can get better with this team.”

After three possessions that ended with a missed field goal and two punts, it was full speed ahead with Bubba Mustain leading touchdown drives in three out of Pusch Ridge’s next four possessions.

Mustain’s 9-yard pass to Will Joyce with 3:43 left in the first half opened the scoring.

A 17-yard interception return for a touchdown by Jacob Newborn on the second play of the second half increased the Lion lead to 14-0.

Newborn’s first extensive experience at the varsity level as a junior indicates he is ready to excel on this stage.

He rushed for 98 yards on 18 carries and caught five passes for 36 yards, including a 14-yard reception that put Pusch Ridge ahead 28-7 with 8:00 left.

“Last year, I rode the bench a lot,” Newborn said. “We had a lot of really good seniors. Happy to see them ball, but now, getting my chance, and trusting the coaches and the linemen that they’re going to do their job, it’s been great.”

After Pusch Ridge stopped a Catalina Foothills drive with a turnover on downs at the Lion 6, Newborn rushed four straight times 16 yards before Bubba Mustain broke free for a 16-yard gain. Newborn also had 16-yard run in the drive, leading to Bubba Mustain’s 28-yard touchdown pass to Elliot Lovett with 4:12 left in the third quarter, building the Lions’ lead to 21-0.

Lovett is the youngest son of Pusch Ridge assistant Lamar Lovett, who played for Dick Tomey at Arizona from 1991 to 1994. Lamar Lovett’s older brother Lamont, who also played with the Wildcats, is the radio analyst for Arizona football games.

After Pusch Ridge’s next possession was a turnover on downs at the Catalina Foothills 42, the Falcons finally scored on a 45-yard connection from Jett Scott to Andrew Islas with 11:46 remaining.

The Falcons (1-3) had difficulty finishing drives without their top-producing running back Samuel Delgado, a senior who is out indefinitely with a leg injury.

Catalina Foothills QB Jett Scott threw for 256 yards and connected with three different receivers who tallied at least 60 yards receiving against Pusch Ridge (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Four possessions into Pusch Ridge territory ended with a turnover on downs for Catalina Foothills, including drives of 12 plays and 11 plays in the first half that set the tone for the game.

Scott threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Macen Perez-Brewer with 3:19 remaining to close the scoring.

An onside kick attempt afterward failed and Pusch Ridge went on to run out the clock after getting a first down in the final possession.

Scott completed 15 of 32 attempts for 256 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Three Catalina Foothills receivers had at least 60 yards receiving — Henry Nentl (five catches for 107 yards), Islas (four for 61 yards) and Perez-Brewer (three for 60).

The Falcons play at Tucson High next Friday.

Former Arizona cornerback Marcus Benjamin, who was the defensive backs coach at Desert View in recent years, is now an assistant at Catalina Foothills.

The six other Southern Arizona unbeaten teams aside from Pusch Ridge — Salpointe (3-0), Buena (3-0), CDO (3-0), Mica Mountain (3-0), Catalina (3-0) and Tombstone (3-0).


Head coach: Kent Middleton (34-11, fifth year at Pusch Ridge and overall)

Lions compete in the 3A South. *Region game. Games at 7 p.m.
8/30at Show Low------
9/6at Benjamin Franklin------
9/20at Catalina Foothills------
9/27San Tan Foothills------
10/11at Morenci*------
10/25at Thatcher*------


Head coach: Greg McKinstry III (first year at Catalina Foothills; 5-25, fourth year overall)

Falcons compete in the 4A Kino. *Region game. Games at 7 p.m.
9/6at Yuma Catholic------
9/13Buena ------
9/20Pusch Ridge------
10/4at Sahuaro*------
10/11at Canyon del Oro*------
10/25at Walden Grove*------
11/8at Mica Mountain*------


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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