LAYTON — After the gritty way their kids played Friday night, they should start calling this school NorthriDge — because the Knights' "D" came up awfully darned big.
Northridge High put three touchdowns up on the scoreboard against Davis High's defense, which came into this clash as the top-ranked 5A unit in the state, allowing less than 10 points per game and a season-high of 21, which the Knights matched.
And the Knights showed they certainly know how to play some pretty fierce defense of their own, shutting down the Darts until the fourth quarter on their way to a vital 21-14 Region 1 victory at Northridge Stadium.
Northridge quarterback Karson Casteel ran for one touchdown and threw for another one as the Knights clinched second place in the region race and earned themselves a first-round home game in the 5A state playoffs.
David Adams piled up 165 yards rushing and another 92 receiving yards, Christian Schlicte contributed 115 more yards receiving, and linebackers Kalen Larsen and Austin Tate led an inspired defensive effort by combining for 24 tackles as Northridge ran its record to 4-1 in Region 1 and 7-2 overall.
"We respect their defense totally, and I know it's one of the best, but I think we just found some holes in their defense that we could attack," said Casteel, who completed 17-of-26 passes for 242 yards. "We knew what they were gonna do because they haven't changed it up much all year.
"Our defense saved us. They played awesome, amazing. I was proud of 'em."
After David Adams' 2-yard TD run and Casteel's 8-yard scoring scamper staked Northridge to a 14-0 halftime lead, the Knights turned the ball over twice in their own territory in the third quarter.
But the Northridge defense refused to buckle, stopping Davis once at the Knights' 26-yard line and another time at the Northridge 10.
Then after a great punt return put the Darts inside the Northridge 30 for a third time, the Knights held tough once again, stopping Davis on yet another fourth-down play, this time at the Knights' 15.
"That was definitely the key to the game," said Northridge coach Erik Thompson, who credited defensive coordinator Jason Duckworth with coming up with a tremendous game plan. "We've got nine guys playing both ways and they were getting tired, but they just played their butts off and that's what won the game for us.
"I've got some battling suckers on this team, and our will is what won out."
Davis finally dented the Northridge "D" in the fourth quarter, as Tyson Denney's 2-yard TD run capped an 81-yard drive to make it 14-7.
But Casteel and Adams led a Northridge scoring drive, and Casteel lofted a 22-yard touchdown pass to Alex Trotter, whose terrific leaping catch in the end zone gave the Knights a 21-7 lead.
Denney hooked up with Corby Fuhriman on a long pass play that set up a 3-yard touchdown run by Mark Christiansen that pulled Davis with 21-14 with 2:30 to play, but Casteel & Co. ran out the clock to preserve the victory.
"We're really not the best football team around, but we believe fate favors the fearless," Thompson said. "And we were going to come out here and be aggressive, and if we lost the game we were going to go down swinging.
"That's kind of the mantra we took tonight. We tried to be aggressive in all aspects of the game, and obviously we had some turnovers, fumbles and miscues, but our kids are always aggressive and they played their butts off.
"We've got so much respect for Davis (5-3-1, 3-2). I think they're one of the best-coached teams in the state if not the best, and they're always prepared," Thompson said. "Scoring 21 on them is like scoring 42, to be honest with you, so we feel great about that."
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