The Pusch Ridge Christian Academy high school football team is coming off a 6-4 record from last year under the leadership of head coach Troy Cropp.
Last year was Cropp’s first year coaching at the varsity level for the Lions, which played Division V teams. The Lions made big improvements, coming back from a disappointing 2011 season where they finished with a 2-7 record.
“What the kids accomplished is very impressive regarding all of changes of getting a new head coach, injuries, learning a new offense, a new defense and a whole new system,” said Cropp. “I’m proud of how the kids did last year.”
Last year’s senior players Grayson Barghols, Joey Lowery, Robert Ferrari and Will King led the team with hard work and motivated the younger players, according to Cropp.
The hardest competition was against Joy Christian High School, located in Glendale, which ended up winning the division last season.
Even though none of the seniors from last year are going on to play in college, Cropp said they left big shoes to fill for the upcoming senior class.
Looking forward to this season, Cropp expects seniors Cameron Dwan, offensive guard and defensive tackle, and Connor Reilly, running back and linebacker to step up.
“Both outwork everybody. Also, because of the injuries last year, we had freshmen and some sophomores start and play a lot of varsity minutes so I can see them stepping up too,” said Cropp.
The Lions will have a younger team, but players that have some experience due to playing varsity minutes last season are expected to step up and easily make the transition. Cropp knows the team has a ways to go before they reach a high level of football, but is encouraged by the progress the players are making.
“One goal is state. Another goal is to continue to improve and play at the highest level in Division V and teach these young men that football is a great game,” said Cropp. “The team has already improved in speed and strength because of working out so just looking to improve more but sticking to fundamentals and growth for our program.”
The Lions’ first home game will be against Miami High School on Aug. 30 at 7 p.m.