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SANDY — Now that's how you start a high school football season.

Making a change from the usual sloppy and sometimes unentertaining contests that take place in the opening week of the season, Northridge outlasted Jordan in a 41-37 shootout on the Beetdiggers' new turf field. The game featured 780 yards of offense, two ties, three second-half lead changes, and just two turnovers.

"It was a good game," said Northridge safety/receiver Chris Washington in an understatement. "I'm glad it was on KJZZ because it probably entertained some people at home."

Washington contributed most of his entertaining — and clutch — plays in the second half, and he combined with quarterback Junior Cole to provide the game-winning play for the Knights. Trailing by three, and facing a second-and-goal situation, Cole withstood a blitzing Jordan defense and tossed a 7-yard touchdown pass to Washington with 7.4 seconds left in the game.

"I was supposed to roll out, to my right but they blitzed, so I threw it to where I knew Chris would be," Cole said. "The best receiver caught the ball."

Washington quickly got open on the play, was where he was supposed to be, and made the pressure-filled catch.

"I can't take credit for it," said Washington, who intercepted a pass on defense to set up a touchdown run by Cole earlier in the fourth quarter. "Junior Cole gave me a beautiful pass. It doesn't get more perfect than that. I can't take credit for that. I got to give it to Junior."

Cole made his first varsity start for Northridge and was outstanding. He threw an interception, but it was on a tipped ball. He rushed 14 times for 86 yards and completed 14-of-21 passes for 214 yards. He threw three touchdown passes and rushed for two more.

Cole was protected well by an offensive line that entered the game with several question marks. The Beetdiggers' plan on defense was to load up the box, and bottle up Northridge running back Peni Maka'afi. It worked because they held him to 63 yards on 16 carries, but Cole made Jordan pay for the strategy all afternoon.

"Peni will run for 100 yards every game unless they do that," said Northridge coach Erik Thompson. "That's what I was most concerned about, if someone takes him away, can we combat that? That should change everything. I'll take 41 points and they can take away Peni."

Northridge's victory was nearly taken away by a dynamic performance by Jordan quarterback Alex Hart. He rushed for 191 yards on 21 carries, and completed 11-of-18 passes for 136 yards. His 7-yard touchdown run with 1:19 remaining gave Jordan a 37-34 lead.

But a mistake he made after the score ended up being costly. Hart spiked the ball after getting in the end zone and was flagged for a 15-yard penalty for doing so. Jordan was charged the 15 yards on the ensuing kickoff, the kick went out of bounds, and Northridge took possession at the 50.

"We were ecstatic," Thompson said. "That changed our whole mindset. We didn't have to be in such a hurry. We could throw short passes, get in (field goal) range and take a couple shots. Luckily, one of the shots got caught."


E-mail: aaragon@desnews.com