LAYTON — Northridge football coach Erik Thompson gave his team a history lesson in preparation for its first-round playoff game against Cottonwood on Friday afternoon.
He told his players of one of the key battles in the Civil War in which the union was severely outnumbered by the confederates. In The Battle of Little Round Top, defeat seemed certain until the union made strategic adjustments, engineered a relentless assault and used the phrase "fix bayonets" as a rallying cry.
It was almost fitting that Thompson used a historical war reference for inspiration as his Knights defeated Cottonwood, 49-35, in a do-or-die high school football shootout.
In this case, the strategic adjustments were slowing down the pace of the game and focusing on running the ball in the second half, the relentless assault was produced by a three-headed monster of quarterback Karson Casteel, running back David Adams and tight end Christian Schlicte, and the rallying cry of "fix bayonets" was exactly the same.
"That was the key to the game," Thompson said of the fix bayonets reminder.
Just like the union, defeat seemed fairly likely for the Knights — until the final couple minutes of the second quarter. Northridge trailed the Colts 26-14, and was in a position it didn't want to be in — trying to beat Cottonwood in a shootout.
The Knights got a gift from the Colts on a fourth-and-5 as Cottonwood jumped offsides to give them a first down. Two plays later, Casteel threw Kalen Larsen a 38-yard touchdown pass to make it 26-21 with 1:50 left in the first half. After forcing a punt, Northridge scored again when Casteel threw Jimbo Adams a 15-yard touchdown pass with 11.7 seconds left before halftime.
"The end of the first half changed everything," Thompson said. "We were down two scores, and to be able to put together two quick drives before halftime to get some momentum back, and kind of be able to get our breath, and come out with a little better plan of trying to run the ball more, and slow the pace down."
It isn't Northridge's style to slow games down, but it was necessary against the Colts. Cottonwood had the Knights on their heels with its hurry-up offense, and Northridge had nine starters going both ways. That changed in the second half when the Knights took control with the running game and kept Cottonwood's high-powered offense watching from the sideline.
David Adams ran for just 13 yards in the first half, but rushed 15 times after halftime and finished with 123 yards. A runner tough as nails, Adams never went down on first contact.
"That's how I was raised," David Adams said of his it's-going-to-take-six-of-you-to-take-me-down running style.
David Adams also returned a punt 73 yards for a touchdown in the first half, and caught four passes for 56 yards.
"He's a shifty little sucker," Thompson said. "He's amazing. I don't even know how he does some of the stuff he does. He has so much self-confidence and he's got this competitive fire in him. When it's crunch time, you find a way to get him the ball."
Not that he wants to take the ball out of his quarterback's hands. Casteel completed 18 of 28 passes for 378 yards and four touchdowns. His top target was Schlicte, who caught nine balls for a whopping 227 yards. A 67-yard touchdown strike from Casteel to Schlicte made it 35-26 early in the third quarter, and enabled the Knights to execute the game plan they wanted.
"Schlicte had a good game," said David Adams. "He had a ton of big plays and gave us some emotion. We just never gave up. We knew our offense could score."
Next up for Northridge is a showdown with top-ranked and unbeaten Lone Peak in the 5A quarterfinals.
"We're playing, so I'm not about to complain (about the draw)," Thompson said. "I get to coach them for one more week, and then we're going to go for one more week and then one more after that."
Copyright 2017, Deseret News Publishing Company