5A high school football preview: Northridge at Lone Peak

Published: Thursday, Nov. 3 2011 8:00 a.m. MDT

Northridge (8-3) at Lone Peak (11-0)

5A state tournament quarterfinal

Friday, 4 p.m.

Parry's Power Guide: Lone Peak by 20

All-time series: Series tied 1-1

Coach vs. coach: First meeting between Northridge's Erik Thompson and Lone Peak's Tony McGeary

Last meeting: Aug. 29, 2003, Northridge 17, Lone Peak 16.

They'd better get plenty of extra lightbulbs and maybe even a backup generator for the scoreboard when Lone Peak and Northridge — two valiant bands of Knights in shining armor who also happen to be two of the state's highest-scoring squads — square off in the 5A quarterfinals on Friday.

Top-ranked Lone Peak, with quarterback Chase Hansen leading the way, piles up points to the tune of nearly 41 per game. The Southern Knights have scored less than 35 points in a game only twice all season long.

Hansen has already thrown for over 2,200 yards and an eye-popping 33 touchdowns this season. If that's not enough, he's also Lone Peak's leading rusher with 900 yards and 10 more TDs.

"Chase Hansen is the best football player I've seen in 10 years coming out of this state — not just the best quarterback, but the best football player," said Northridge coach Erik Thompson, whose team faces the unenviable task of trying to slow down the Southern Knights' brightest star. "He runs the ball extremely well, he throws the ball on the button and he can play defense, too. He's a great leader and has a warrior-type mentality, so we've definitely got our hands full."

Hansen's top receiving targets are Connor Humphrey, Zac Saunders and Micah Hannemann, who have combined for 85 catches, good for more than 1,500 yards and 26 TDs between them.

What's more, the undefeated Knights allow less than 15 ppg, with Matt Gowdy and Kurtis Taufa leading a stingy defensive effort for a squad which has already matched the school record for single-season wins with 11.

Northridge quarterback Karson Casteel is certainly no slouch, either, as he's thrown for nearly 2,700 yards and 22 touchdowns, along with nine more rushing TDs. David Adams gives the northern Knights another potent offensive weapon, with nearly 1,200 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns to go along with more than 700 receiving yards and seven more TDs. Christian Schlicte adds more than 900 yards receiving with four touchdowns for Northridge.

"It could be a very good matchup," Lone Peak coach Tony McGeary said. "They put a lot of points on the board and so do we. We hope we can continue to do the same thing. And we're preparing ourselves defensively to try and slow them down some.

"It very well could be a shootout. Both offenses are pretty well-seasoned into what they've been doing all year. We're focusing on our defense and feel like we've got some improvements we can make to get better. If we can slow a team like that down, it will benefit our game plan even better.

"They've got a very long and tall quarterback (Casteel), so we'll have our work cut out for us," McGeary said. "And Adams is such a big part of their offense. He can run the ball and he'll catch the ball out of the backfield, too, so he can be a dangerous offensive weapon for them."

Austin Tate and Kalen Larsen lead the Northridge defense, whose 23.6 points per game allowed probably has the Lone Peak offense licking its chops.

And although Northridge enters Friday's duel as a decided underdog, coach Thompson and his team are taking a "Why not us?" approach when it comes to their chances of knocking off those "other" Knights, the ones who haven't lost all season long.

"All I know is they've got a game scheduled for Friday at 4 p.m. and we're gonna show up," he said. "We're not the best team in the state, and we've got a ton of guys playing both ways and a lot of injuries we're dealing with. But one thing I know about my kids is they're going to show up and play their butts off, and they care about each other. I mean, what more could a coach ask for?

"They've got some really good players, but we've got some guys who can make some plays, too. So it comes down to a matter of can our playmakers stop their playmakers? The game has the potential to be a shootout, but that favors them, so I'm hoping for crappy weather and a sloppy game.

"They're so explosive and can score so quickly, so we don't want to fall behind and have to try and play catch-up, because when you do that, it makes you one-dimensional," Thompson said. "We can't have any special teams miscues or turnovers."

The Northridge coach knows that, as one of only eight 5A teams that are still in the state title hunt, anything can happen. Nobody's giving Northridge much of a chance, but Thompson's not looking to throw in the towel by any means. After all, nobody's unbeatable and upsets occur in sports all the time.

"At this time of year, everyone's got that light in their eye and wants a chance to win it all," Thompson said. "And if you're going to win it all, you've got to go through Lone Peak. I'd just as soon play 'em in the quarterfinals, because then maybe you can sneak up on 'em.

"They've got 42 seniors on their roster, and they start almost all seniors," he said of Lone Peak's lineup. "They're a group of kids that have been playing together for a long time. The Hansen kid is a game-changer, but we feel like we've got a really good game plan that can contain him.

"So it may be a lot closer than most people think. We're going into this game with an attitude of 'Why not us?' "

The two teams have faced two common opponents this season — one with very similar results, the other with a vastly different outcome.

Lone Peak defeated Davis 21-10 early in the season, and Northridge also dumped the Darts 21-14 in their Region 1 finale. But while the southern Knights knocked off Mountain Crest 35-14 early in the season, the northern Knights were stampeded by the Mustangs 38-14 in their regular-season finale.

Northridge statistical breakdown

Scoring offense: 30.1 ppg

Scoring defense: 23.6 ppg

Passing leader: Karson Casteel (175-293, 59.7%, 2,681 yards, 22 TDs, 4 INTs)

Rushing leaders: David Adams (164 carries, 1,168 yards, 11 TDs), Karson Casteel (33 carries, 143 yards, 9 TDs)

Receiving leaders: David Adams (52 receptions, 719 yards, 7 TDs), Christian Schlicte (42 receptions, 911 yards, 4 TDs)

Tackles leaders: Austin Tate (106 total tackles), Kalen Larsen (97 total tackles)

Sacks leaders: Dallas Clark (5 sacks)

Interceptions leader: Jaeger Allred, Cody Bialcak, Zach Hayes (2 interceptions)

Lone Peak statistical breakdown

Scoring offense: 40.7 ppg

Scoring defense: 14.8 ppg

Passing leader: Chase Hansen (139-229, 60.7%, 2,201 yards, 33 TDs, 4 INTs)

Rushing leaders: Chase Hansen (118 carries, 900 yards, 10 TDs), Kurtis Taufa (35 carries, 377 yards, 1 TD)

Receiving leaders: Connor Humphrey (33 receptions, 618 yards, 9 TDs), Zac Saunders (28 receptions, 574 yards, 9 TDs), Micah Hannemann (24 receptions, 353 yards, 8 TDs)

Tackles leaders: Matt Gowdy (85 total tackles), Kurtis Taufa (73 total tackles)

Sacks leaders: Kurtis Taufa, Ty Crockett, Collin Bearnson (6 sacks)

Interceptions leader: Andrew Schirmer, Brody Berry (5 interceptions)

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