Pusch Ridge Vs. Northwest Christian: Mirror Images in D-IV

It’s never where you start but where you finish.

For Northwest Christian, they’re hoping to end their quest for a Division IV championship with a long winning streak, much like they did to begin the season. The Crusaders raced out to an 8-0 start before stumbling to two-straight losses to end the regular season.

Saturday night at Chaparral High School David Inness’ team has a chance end on a four-game win streak if they can get past Tucson Pusch Ridge who have rattled off 12-straight wins after dropping their season opener to Benson 28-14.

One constant along the sometimes-bumpy road for Northwest Christian (11-2) has been their leadership.

“We dropped our last two,” Inness told Sports360AZ.com. “Our seniors got us together after the [Estrella Foothills] game and said, ‘hey, this is what we need to do.’ It’s been a totally different ball club the last three weeks. We dropped to an eight-seed. We didn’t care who were playing, we just wanted to keep playing.”

In the Lions (12-1) they see a talented, Christian school similar to themselves. Troy Cropp’s team cruised past Payson 38-13 in the opening round of the post-season before a pair of three-point wins over River Valley and Lake Havasu propelled them to the title game.

Pusch Ridge features a pair of talented running backs in senior James Raica and sophomore Tamerat Mcleod who have combined for 26 touchdowns and close to 2,000 yards on the ground.

Key Matchup: Both teams not only feature talented senior quarterbacks, they both happen to be sons of their head coach. Pusch Ridge’s senior signal-caller Cody Cropp has been steady under center, while Drew Inness has been playing varsity for what seems like forever at NCS. It will be key for the Lions’ top tacklers in sophomore Dakota Haynes (138 tackles) and Raica (131 stops) to keep Inness (41 total touchdowns) and running back Travis Pollay in check.

Kickoff is set for 6:00.