2023 High School Football

4A Quarterfinals: No. 6 Northwest Christian vs. No. 3 Mica Mountain

No. 6 Northwest Christian (9-2) at No. 3 Mica Mountain (10-1)

Date: Friday

Kickoff: 7 p.m.

Stream: NFHS Network (ONLY online streaming)

Northwest Christian coach: David Inness (136-37, 14th season at Northwest Christian and overall)

Mica Mountain coach: Pat Nugent (157-65, 21st season overall, and 19-8, third season at Mica Mountain)

When Northwest Christian has the ball:

Run percentage: 46.7 percent (246 rushes)

Pass percentage: 53.3 percent (281 passes)

Northwest Christian senior QB Evan Tarasenko (6-foot-1 and 195 pounds) has thrown for 2,805 yards while completing 177 of 273 attempts. He has 37 touchdowns and five interceptions. He passed for 432 yards on 23-or-35 passing with six touchdowns and no interceptions in the win over visiting Walden Grove last week in the first round of the 4A state playoffs. Tarasenko took a recruiting visit to NAU last week. … Senior RB Ben Lueders is the Crusaders’ top rusher with 910 yards on 129 carries with 11 touchdowns. … Senior WR Gunnar Penzkover is one of the top receivers in the state with 1,127 yards on 47 receptions. Also a right-handed pitcher, he has already announced he will play college baseball at Grand Canyon. … Senior WR Marshall Gillette is the team’s top possession receiver with 49 receptions for 550 yards and seven touchdowns.

Mica Mountain’s defense under defensive coordinator Brett Darling is significant to the Thunderbolts’ success. … Sophomore LB Broden Schmidt is the team-leader in tackles with 82. Junior DE Jimmy Leon, who has already been offered a scholarship by Arizona State, has 19 tackles for loss among his 67 tackles. He leads the 4A conference with 17 sacks. … Another junior, Jaysen Criswell, has come on strongly with 51 tackles, 5.5 for loss, and six sacks. … CB Devin Hayward, younger brother of former Cienega standout Terrell Hayward, had two interceptions in the end zone last week in the 31-24 first-round win over Snowflake. … One of the Thunderbolts’ top defenders, LB Kason Colbert, has been out for a month because of concussion protocol. His status for Friday’s game is undetermined. He has 63 tackles, 2.5 for loss.

Mica Mountain junior DE Jimmy Leon leads the 4A with 17 sacks (Gilbert Alcaraz/Special to AllSportsTucson.com)

When Mica Mountain has the ball:

Run percentage: 58.0 percent (308 rushes)

Pass percentage: 42.0 percent (223 passes)

Mica Mountain has the ability to attack a defense with balance. Junior QB Jayden Thoreson is a dangerous passer completing almost 60 percent of his passes (128 of 214) for 1,864 yards. He has 22 touchdowns to go with only four interceptions. … Tough runner Conner Hangartner rushed for a season-high 141 yards on 15 carries in last week’s win over Snowflake. He busted free for a 73-yard touchdown in which it appeared as if he gained speed as the run went on. Hangartner has 558 yards on 84 carries with nine touchdowns. He started the season backing up Colbert, until Colbert’s injury last month. Colbert, an overpowering north-south runner, lead the Thunderbolts with 837 yards on 65 carries with 12 touchdowns. … Mica Mountain has three receivers to whom Thoreson spreads the ball most — Jonah Garcia (34 catches for 487 yards and eight touchdowns), Jack Bradley (35 receptions for 441 yards and five touchdowns) and Hayward (24 catches for 361 yards).

Northwest Christian does not have tackling stats posted to MaxPreps. Gillette is also a linebacker. He leads the team with three interceptions. The Crusaders have nine interceptions as a team. … The defense is allowing 20 points a game

Common opponent

Walden Grove — Northwest Christian beat Walden Grove twice this season at home — in the season opener (38-26 score) and last week’s first round of the state playoffs (40-12). … Mica Mountain beat Walden Grove 21-7 at home on Oct. 27.

Series record

First meeting. Mica Mountain is in its second full varsity season since the school opened in the 2020-21 school year.


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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