Friday night’s Class 3A high school football matchup between Pusch Ridge and Sabino was supposed to be a highly contested battle between regional opponents.
It ended up being a coming-out party for the Pusch Ridge Christian Lions.
Behind a dominant rushing attack and physical defense, Pusch Ridge scored 38 unanswered points to secure a 44-7 victory over Sabino and improve to a perfect 7-0 on the season.
“I’m so proud of the way my guys played,” Pusch Ridge coach Jerry Harris said. “Sabino played very hard and they’re a quality program. They’re storied, with lots of history and tradition over there. We’re lucky to have them in our region. … But I’m so proud of my guys. They rose up when it mattered most.”
Leading the way for Pusch Ridge was quarterback Christian Fetsis. The senior finished with 141 passing yards and 100 rushing yards while accounting for four (three rushing, one passing) of the Lions’ seven touchdowns.
Fetsis opened the scoring with a 5-yard touchdown on a designed quarterback sneak with 4:57 left in the first quarter and gave his team the momentum early on. The extra-point attempt failed, but Pusch Ridge grabbed the early 6-0 lead in front of its home crowd.
Sabino (5-2) answered back with the team’s only points of the game about two minutes later when senior wide receiver Bennett Nottingham caught a 6-yard touchdown to give the Sabercats a 7-6 lead over the Lions.
Then, the floodgates opened.
Pusch Ridge drove down the field over the next few minutes and Fetsis scored his second rushing touchdown of the game to take a 12-7 lead over the Sabercats just eight seconds into the second quarter.
Senior running back Dakota Haynes added two touchdowns of his own, one via the ground and one via the air, over the course of the second quarter to give Pusch Ridge a 24-7 lead at the halftime break.
Pusch Ridge came out of halftime with the same energy exhibited during that crucial second-quarter stretch and scored two more touchdowns within a three-minute span to close out the third quarter with a bang.
Senior running back Mitch Maas punched in a 2-yard touchdown with 2:36 left in the third quarter to give his team a four-score lead, before Fetsis added his third and final rushing touchdown of the night with 22 seconds left in the quarter to up the lead to 31 points.
Add in a final rushing touchdown from sophomore running back Ryan Garcia with 5:56 left to play and Pusch Ridge capped off a dominant stretch of three quarters and 38 unanswered points.
In all, Pusch Ridge finished with 409 total yards, including 268 rushing yards and 141 passing yards. By comparison, Sabino finished with 141 total yards, with 153 yards coming via the pass and minus-12 yards coming from the ground game.
After the win, Fetsis deflected praise and attributed his team’s dominant showing to his teammates and coaching staff.
“Running the ball is all on the (offensive line), they’ve been working so hard and working their butts off at practice every day, my receivers are running great routes and coaches are making great calls against different coverages,” Fetsis said. “I have a small part; I just have to get the ball to the players. They do the rest.”