"One of the funnest things as a coach is to see kids develop and have fun and find joy in football and get better and do things that maybe they didn't think they could do or others didn't think they could do," Thompson said. "I expect to be picked at the bottom of the region, and understandably so with not many guys coming back and a lot of question marks. But our coaches and the players are determined to make a run at the region and I think we can do that.
"The thing that lets me go to sleep at night is I knowing I've been fortunate to surround myself with a great staff — great assistants who do a phenomenal job developing players and motivating kids. There's a reason Northridge has been pretty good every year for some time, and it's not me — it's great assistants.
"I only can do so much and really the assistants are the heart of any football program. ... I really feel fortunate that the coaching staff at Northridge right now is as good as I've ever had. I have great assistant coaches who work their butts off, who are dedicated and come prepared every day. I really feel that the player development at Northridge is equal to anybody in the state and we're able to take kids that are smaller and don't have much experience and help them become good high school football players.
"I'm confident with the coaching staff that I have, and with the good attitudes and hard-working kids that I have, by the time we hit region, I think we're going to surprise some people," Thompson said. "We're definitely not going to fear anybody, and we respect everybody, but we're excited for the challenge. ... I feel confident by the time we do hit region we'll compete with anybody. That's what makes it fun. If you play well, you have a chance to win and that gets you excited as a competitor — to see if you can go compete and win.
"I know my kids are going to play hard. I know my kids are going to compete. I know my kids care about each other. We're going to prepare. Whether we're good enough or not, we'll find out — and that's part of the excitement as well."
Northridge Knights at a glance
Coach: Erik Thompson begins his ninth season as the Knights' head coach. He has compiled a 55-32 record in eight seasons at the school. He is a graduate of Roy High.
(4 returning starters; Multiple-formation offense)
Davy Adams is one of the best running backs in the state, both carrying the ball and making receptions out of the backfield, and Dallin Isaacson, and possibly Eliyah Mayberry will join him as potential playmakers there. Nate Kusuda takes the reins of the offense at quarterback, and Zach Hayes, Houston Lacey, Brock Cleverly, Robert Crawford, Jace Colby and Austin Ricks give him plenty of targets to throw the ball to. However, the development of a small and inexperienced offensive line may determine how many points the Knights can put up on the scoreboard.
(4 returning starters)
The secondary is the Knights' strong suit, with Adams, Hayes, Chaston Martinez, Hunter Johnson, Dayan Lake, Adam Wilson, Lacey and Bergman providing plenty of quickness at the cornerback and safety spots. But the linebacker corps, led by Isaacson and Ricks, is razor thin, and the D-line, though boasting ample depth, lacks size and experience — much like its O-line counterpart.
Coaches preseason Region 1 straw poll: Third
Deseret News Region 1 prediction: Third
Bottom line: The Knights' success hinges on their ability to develop their offensive and defensive fronts into cohesive units during preseason play. They have plenty of playmakers on offense, and their secondary should be strong. But it's true that it's what's up front that counts, and that will hold the key once league play gets under way. Circle Sept. 29 (at home against Syracuse) and Oct. 12 (at Davis) as key dates on the Northridge calendar.
Aug. 17 at Logan, 7 p.m.
Aug. 24 OLYMPUS, 7 p.m.
Aug. 31 at Kearns, 7 p.m.
Sept. 7 WESTLAKE, 7 p.m.
Sept. 14 FREMONT, 7 p.m.
Sept. 21 at Weber, 7 p.m.