Ravell Call, Deseret News
Cottonwood (5-4) at Northridge (7-3)
5A state tournament first round
Friday, 4 p.m.
Parry's Power Guide: Northridge by 4
All-time series: Northridge leads 5-0
Coach vs. coach: First meeting between Cottonwood's Josh Lyman and Northridge's Erik Thompson
Last meeting: Nov. 1, 2002, Northridge 52, Cottonwood 8 (5A first round)
When Northridge and Cottonwood collide in Friday's first round of the 5A playoffs, the two teams may feel like they're seeing a mirror image of themselves on offense.
Both the Knights and Colts have explosive offenses and a host of playmakers who can make big plays and put points on the scoreboard in bunches.
Northridge was the second-best team in Region 1, with its only league loss coming against region champ Fremont. But one week after a rousing victory over Davis, the Knights were knocked off last week by Mountain Crest in a non-league, regular-season finale.
"Give credit to Mountain Crest," said Northridge coach Erik Thompson. "They prepared better for us than we did for them. Their kids were more motivated and their coaches did a better job of preparing them.
"It's one of those things where we only had one day to prepare for them and it was tough coming back after beating Davis. But I'm not making excuses or taking anything away from Mountain Crest; they just outplayed us."
Quarterback Karson Casteel and running back David Adams spearhead the Knights' offense. Casteel has thrown for over 2,300 yards and 14 touchdowns, and he has run for eight more TDs. Adams leads the team in both rushing (1,038 yards with 10 touchdowns) and receiving (48 catches for 663 yards and six TDs). Christian Schlicte is also a big-play receiver for Northridge, while Austin Tate and Kalen Larsen lead the way defensively.
"Karson has put a lot of time in to make himself a better player, and he's got a great arm and a 6-foot-5 frame," Thompson said. "Adams always been a special person as far as being a competitor, and this year we found out what he could do offensively. He's got a great knack for making people miss and fights for every inch."
Cottonwood will counter with quarterback Cooper Bateman, who has piled up more than 2,200 yards passing and 23 touchdowns, while Gabe Hosea has run for over 1,150 yards and seven TDs. Bateman's top target is Inoke Lotulelei, who has hauled in 66 passes for more than 1,000 yards and 14 touchdowns. Luke Latteier leads the Cottonwood defense.
"I feel it's going to be a fun matchup for us, probably one of the best matchups in the first round," coach Thompson said. "These are two teams that each finished second in their regions, although Cottonwood lost a coin flip for the No. 2 seed. They've got the top passer and the top rusher in 5A, and they're a very explosive team.
"We're very similar teams. We each have a very good passer, a very good runner and a very good receiver. So it'll be a game where the key will be whose defense can keep the other team's offense off the field.
"They blitz on every down, and they have a very aggressive, physical defense," Thompson said. "They've got three or four playmakers and so do we, so it's a matter of who can make more plays. If our best players play well and make plays, then we've got a great chance to win. But they could certainly say the very same thing."
Cottonwood has had a real up-and-down ride this season, with victories over state playoff teams like Brighton and American Fork, lopsided losses to powerful Bingham and Alta, and high-scoring battles with West Jordan (a 41-38 win) and Jordan (a 49-35 loss).
In all, the Colts have scored plenty of points (nearly 29 per game) but have also given up plenty of points, too (nearly 33 per game). So Friday's matchup shapes up as potentially a high-scoring shootout.