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Note: Northridge High finished with an 8-4 overall record and was second in Region 1 with a 4-1 record in 2011. It lost to Lone Peak, 21-14, in the 5A quarterfinals.
LAYTON — Erik Thompson is a talkative, glass-is-always-at-least-half-full kinda guy.
So when he starts talking about his Northridge High football team, the Knights' ninth-year head coach has such enormous energy, enthusiasm and passion for the game and for his kids — despite this year's lack of size, depth and experience — that you can't help but get pretty excited about the upcoming season yourself.
"You're always nervous about those things — like a lack of returning starters, a lack of size — all the things that every coach worries about," Thompson said. "But I'm really excited as well. That's the great thing, I think, about high school football is that every year there's such great turnover that the team takes on a whole different personality and new leaders emerge. So it's fun to see that happen. The anticipation and the excitement to see what we can become is always there with me.
"Most people would think 'What are you (thinking) this year?' We only have a few returning starters and we lost a lot of really good players that had started for two or three years. So maybe to an outsider it could be a rebuilding year for Northridge or a year that maybe we're going to struggle a little bit.
"It might take a couple of games, but by the time region rolls around, I think we can become very competitive," he said. "We plan on competing for the region championship just like everybody else. Our kids are determined to make that happen and I think after a couple of games we'll compete with anybody, and that's all you can ask for is to have a shot on any given day."
Though it's true that the Knights lost a lot of firepower from last year's team that reached the 5A quarterfinals, one of the few returnees they do have is a great one in senior running back Davy Adams. The 5-foot-9, 180-pound performer played like a man possessed last season when he carried the ball 177 times for 1,217 yards and 12 touchdowns and hauled in 57 passes for another 785 yards and eight more TDs on his way to earning all-state honors.
"He might be the best overall football player in the state," Thompson said. "If he didn't get so tired on offense, he'd be one of the best defensive players in the state as well, but we spell him a little bit over there.
"He's ultra, ultra competitive — one of the most competitive kids I've ever met —super smart, has a great feel for the game, just a good leader and a good athlete. He's got it all and it's his mission to go win a region championship with his group after everyone's graduated.
"I think he senses that people don't think we'll be that good this year," the Knights' coach added, "so sometimes having a little chip on your shoulder or having a little extra motivation is not a bad thing. I'm very thankful to have him."
Other running backs who will help spell Adams in the backfield are senior Dallin Isaacson, who suffered a broken elbow last season, sophomore Dayan Lake and senior fullback Eliyah Mayberry, a transfer from Layton Christian Academy who Thompson said, if his variance is approved, could bolster the Knights' fortunes.
"The strength of our team is running back," Thompson said. "... I feel really blessed there and we have had a great tradition of great running backs here for a long time.
"Isaacson is the strongest kid on our team, and he's as mean and tough as they get. He'll hit ya right in the mouth. Lake, for his age group, might be the best athlete in Northern Utah if not Utah. He's got phenomenal speed, strength, and he'll start at defensive back again and we expect to get him the ball on offense."