The football stadium at Pusch Ridge Christian Academy in Oro Valley is set in a very picturesque and beautiful location. Situated on the western side of the Catalina Mountains and underneath the namesake Pusch Ridge the 2018 Lions had not been successful in defending their home turf this year, losing all three of their home games, 21-0 to Walden Grove, 33-7 to Canyon Del Oro and 21-7 to Snowflake.
That changed on Friday night where, before their homecoming crowd, the Lions handed the Sahuarita Mustangs a 40-21 loss. Both teams are now 4-3 overall, with Pusch Ridge holding a 2-0 region mark and SHS at 0-2 with three games remaining.
A football is a strange shaped object. It is kind of pointy on both ends and round in the middle. When it bounces or rolls it can be difficult to figure out exactly what it is going to do. Friday night the Mustangs’ special teams never really got a grasp of what the ball was going to do.
Another thing the Mustangs couldn’t get a grasp on was opposing ball carriers. The Mustangs couldn’t seem to get a firm grasp on Lions’ Sophomore Evan Lovett. Lovett scored four of the Lions five touchdowns, two on special teams with 65+ yard kickoff return, and with one receiving and one rushing.
If momentum was an animate object, it too might have the shape of a football and be hard to get a firm grasp on it. Every time it seemed SHS would grab the momentum, it would slip away. Mustang Tucker Leinen drew the game close, 7-6 after a failed PAT.
The Lions snatched the momentum back when Lovett took the ensuing kickoff all the way back to move the score to 13-6. Lovett would score again on a 70-yard pass play, 20-5. The Lions would close out the first half scoring with a field goal 23-6.
Lovett would open the second half with yet another special teams score, returning the opening kickoff 80 yards, 30-6. The Mustangs would respond with a 37-yard Colin Fanning to Cristian Gonzales pass that set up a 15-yard Fanning to Emilio Mendez touchdown pass, good PAT, 30-13.
Two runs by Lovett for a total 56 yards and a touchdown made the score 37-13. The Lions added yet another field goal making the score 40-13 going into the final period.
With two minutes left in the game, Orlando Williams connected with Gonzales this time, and Gonzales did what he has done all season long, come down with passes that seemed to be 50/50 or uncatchable due to opposing players.
Friday night he took toss-up throw 53 yards for the final touchdown of the night, with Williams running in the 2-point conversion, but it was too little, too late. 40-21 final score.
The Mustangs have three games remaining, two away games in Tucson at Catalina and Sabino, prior to the season finale facing Tanque Verde back home in Sahuarita. Sabino, Safford and Pusch Ridge now stand at 2-0 in region play while Catalina and Tanque Verde join Sahuarita at 0-2.
Following the game head Coach Don Watt and defensive coordinator Anthony Coronado told the team they were not out of the playoff equation and that the team still held their destiny in their hands.