High school football: Defense propels Syracuse Titans past the Northridge Knights
Ravell Call, Deseret News
LAYTON — It's cliche but true, in Region 1 defense wins championships. And on Friday night, Syracuse proved that nobody does it better.
The Titans held Northridge's high-powered offense in check all night and backed it up with a huge stop on fourth-and-goal midway through the fourth quarter to preserve a 21-14 victory in the highly anticipated showdown between 6-0 football teams.
"Our kids just really wanted this game. This game meant a lot to them, they've been looking forward to it all week. Hats off to Northridge, they have a tremendous team and they gave us a heck of a battle for everything we could handle tonight," said Syracuse coach Russ Jones.
The victory realistically locked up the Region 1 title for Syracuse as it improved to 3-0 in league play with two very winnable games remaining.
Defense has been the catalyst all season, and that was again the case on Friday with the game on the line.
After Northridge fell behind 21-14 late in the third quarter, the Knights wisely kept the ball on the ground and methodically started to march down field. Northridge converted three third downs and one fourth down on the 17-play drive, which came up two yards short as the Titans stuffed Northridge running back David Adams on a fourth-and-goal at the 2, with Caden Call coming up with the initial hit at the line of scrimmage.
"We said they're going to come up with power right up the middle, that's what they've been doing all game, we knew they were going to give the ball to Davy and the defense stepped up and made a play," said Northridge's Myles Naisbitt.
Northridge was still very much in the game with 7:39 remaining, but its offense never touched the ball again as Syracuse picked up three first downs to run the clock out.
Syracuse quarterback Brock Anderson, who was sensational all game, completed both of his passes on the drive — both for first downs.
"We knew they were going to be the best team we've played all year so we just wanted to come out and execute," said Anderson, who finished the game completing 15 of 17 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns.
Neither team could get much going offensively in the first half as they headed to the locker room tied at 7-7 following a Naisbitt 12-yard pass from Anderson and then a Nate Kusuda 1-yard run for Northridge.
Early in the third quarter though, Northridge appeared to seize momentum as it took a 14-7 lead on a quick three-play scoring drive with Adams accounting for all 58 yards on the ground.
Led by a poised Anderson, Syracuse didn't panic and responded with a seven-play scoring drive to tie the game at 14-14 as Anderson hit Kiwa Mo'o on a 35-yard touchdown reception.
"I just knew that I could trust my receiver to go up and make a play," said Anderson.
Syracuse's defense built on the momentum, forcing Northridge into a quick three-and-out. A bad snap on fourth down forced Northridge's punter to make an acrobatic catch on the ball, but he couldn't get a punt off which set up first-and-goal for the Titans at the 5-yard line. Running back Mason Woodward punched in what turned out to be the winning score on the very first play.
Northridge held Woodward in check with just 33 rushing yards, but it had no answer for the elusive Anderson, who also rushed for 44 yards.
Adams finished with 129 rushing yards on 20 carries to lead Northridge.