High school football: Northridge a surprise to be so dominant
LAYTON — When Northridge traveled to highly touted Logan last month for the opening night of the high school football season, nobody really knew what to expect.
Despite a promising team camp and success at various 7-on-7 camps, the Knights went into the season with minimal varsity experience and very little size on the offensive and defensive lines. It hardly seemed like a recipe for success.
Five weeks later though, Northridge is still undefeated coming off its fifth-straight double-digit triumph.
"We really had no idea going into that Logan game what we had, and I think the guys even surprised themselves," said coach Erik Thompson.
Since its 41-27 win over Logan — a game it led 41-13 heading into the fourth quarter — Northridge has won every game by at least three touchdowns. It beat Olympus 33-0, Kearns 41-14, Westlake 42-7 and Fremont 42-18.
It's been the perfect storm of complementary pieces.
An offensive line that averages about 200 pounds has surpassed all expectations for a group that looks like a bunch of 5A fullbacks and tight ends.
First-year quarterback Nate Kusuda — the younger brother of Brian Kusuda who quarterbacked Northridge to its last state title in 2002 — has picked up the offensive incredibly well and rarely gets rattled.
Thompson believes defense has been the backbone to Northridge's early success. A year after surrendering 22.5 ppg, the Knights have whittled that number down to 13.2 ppg this season. Of the 66 points they've allowed, only 24 have been scored in the first half.
"Making plays on the defensive side of the ball, that's been the key to the season," said Thompson.
For a group with big question marks at linebacker and defensive line coming into the season, the success has been remarkable.
Being undersized in the trenches could still become an issue against region foes Syracuse and Davis later this season, or in the playoffs if Northridge crosses paths with Jordan or Bingham. So far though, team speed and athleticism has more than made up for a lack of size.
As important as the other 21 starters have been for Northridge, David Adams is still the head of the Knights' round table.
Coming off an All-State season in which Adams rushed for 1,217 yards and 12 touchdowns and hauled in 785 receiving yards and eight TDs, the senior is on pace to surpass that production. Just five games into the 2012 campaign, he's already racked up nearly 900 yards of total offense and 12 total touchdowns.
"I'm biased obviously, but I think he's probably the best player in the state," said Thompson. "He can carry it 20 times a game, but he can also go out as a receiver and catch seven balls."
Thompson said opponents base their entire defense on stopping Adams and the running game, which Northridge has capitalized on with the play-action pass.
"Even when he's not getting the ball, he's allowing other people to be successful," said Thompson.
Kusuda has benefitted tremendously from the attention Adams receives as he's completed 61 percent of his passes for 1,093 yards and 12 touchdowns.
With Kusuda and Adams and everyone else on the team exceeding expectations, Northridge has a realistic shot at capturing its first region title since 2003.