LAYTON — There were definitely two very different schools of thought in approaching Wednesday night's football game between Mountain Crest and Northridge: A. Consider it a somewhat meaningless non-league matchup between two highly successful teams that are both headed for postseason play next week. Be cautious, give some key personnel the night off and don't run the risk of getting anybody injured.
B. Don't back off one bit, instead using this regular-season finale as a way to continue to build momentum by playing your starters and going full speed ahead in preparation for the playoffs.
The Knights chose Plan A, sitting 10 of their starters — including key offensive playmakers Davey Adams, Zach Hayes and Dallin Isaacson — while the Mustangs went with Plan B, and the final result was a decisive 31-7 Mountain Crest victory at the Ridge.
"We accomplished what we wanted to accomplish," said Northridge coach Erik Thompson. "We got some guys rested and healthier for the playoffs, and some other well-deserving kids got some playing time for us."
Running back Eddy Hall led the way for the Mustangs (8-2), as the senior workhorse carried the ball 21 times for 110 yards and a touchdown for the Region 5 champions, who notched their seventh straight win.
"It was an important game. It was short week of practice, but in the end we wanted to come out here and have another game under our belt," Hall said. "We went with first team most of the way until the fourth quarter, and then they took 'em out and had the freshmen and sophomores play.
"We came out flat, and then our coaches started getting in our faces so we came out and played even harder.
"We feel pretty strong about both ways of the ball," he said of the Mustangs' postseason prospects. "We're moving the ball on offense and we're stopping people on defense."
The two teams exchanged punts until late in the first quarter, when Mountain Crest recovered a Northridge fumble at the Knights' 18. Hall took the ball to within inches of the goal line, and quarterback Jamison Webb plowed in from there for a 7-0 lead with 39 seconds to go in the first period.
An interception by Gage Whitaker soon had the Mustangs in business again, and Hall danced through the Northridge defense from six yards out to make it 14-0. Then late in the first half, Weston Kasey kicked a 24-yard field goal to give Mountain Crest a 17-0 halftime lead.
Northridge stopped a third-quarter Mountain Crest drive at the Knights' 3, but Northridge fumbled on the very next play and the Mustangs' Troy Netsley pounced on the loose ball in the end zone for a touchdown that made it 24-0.
Northridge (8-2) got on the scoreboard on its next possession following a fine kickoff return by Houston Lacey. Sophomore quarterback Ben Jackson and Dayan Lake spearheaded the drive, and Jackson hit Lake on a pretty 17-yard touchdown toss that trimmed the Knights' deficit to 24-7.
But on Mountain Crest's next possession, Nick Taylor took a short swing pass out of the backfield from Webb and went 67 yards down the sideline, stiff-arming a Northridge defender along the way, for a 31-7 margin.
"We wanted to come in and play real physical and aggressive, because we feel like we've been playing real well lately with a lot of good momentum," Mountain Crest coach Mark Wootton said. "And it's kind of scary to shut your kids down for a week.
"The kids responded well in a game like this against a good team. Northridge is very athletic and we know they kept some kids out of the game. If they were playing at full speed, it's a whole different thing. They're a great team, and that's a smart thing for them to get those kids that they'll need for the playoffs to heal up a little bit. … It's nice to win, but we just didn't want to get a lot of kids hurt."
"We do a lot with Northridge during the summer and they have very competitive kids like we are. We feel like our programs are very similar. We try to copy what they do somewhat; we like what they do and the way they coach their kids," Wootton said. "Their kids will always play very, very hard. They rotated a lot of kids in tonight and those kids that came in later on in the game were coming at it pretty hard, too. That's got to be a positive thing for them."