LAYTON In a tight matchup between two of the state's top 10 teams, No. 5 Northridge broke open a 21-21 third-quarter tie, and its defense stopped late drives by No. 9 Mountain Crest to prevail, 35-21. The Knights had two key interceptions in the third quarter, the second of which led to an insurance touchdown.
With 5A Northridge leading 28-21, Mountain Crest got the ball at its own 5-yard line. On third-and-five, Knight defender Dakota Combe picked off Mustang quarterback Alex Kuresa at the 15-yard line. On the next play, Northridge quarterback Junior Cole hit receiver Chris Washington for their third touchdown hookup of the game.
Northridge's Blake Smithing picked off his second pass of the game earlier in the fourth after Mountain Crest had reached midfield.
"We went into a cover two, and (the ball) was right there," Smithing said.
The 4A Mustangs had one more drive, but they turned it over on downs at the Knights' 5-yard line.
"The defense I really thought was the key ... to slow it down," said Northridge coach Eric Thompson.
The Mustangs, down 21-7 in the second quarter, took a risk that paid off and seemed to spark a rally to put them back in the game. With two minutes left in the first half on fourth-and-nine from the Northridge 34, Kuresa hit Stewart for a 10-yard completion and a first down. Five plays later, Ethen Lofthouse romped into the end zone to make it 21-14 at halftime Kuresa hit Lofthouse on a 5-yard screen pass to tie the game halfway through the third quarter. Kuresa helped set up the score by running a quarterback draw 47 yards deep into Northridge territory. The quarterback overcame a rough start to bring his team back in it.
"(Kuresa) struggled a little bit tonight," said Mustang coach Mark Wootton. "He'll make adjustments, sometimes things like this work out for the best."
Northridge jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter as Cole found Washington on 25-yard and 38-yard scoring tosses. Washington had seven catches for 115 yards.
Cole also had 117 yards rushing, which was crucial because Northridge starting running back Peni Maka'afi sat out the second half with a high ankle sprain.
"With (Maka'afi) out, we just decided to put the game in (Cole's) hands and let him make decisions," Thompson said.
Thompson said Maka'afi should be out one to two weeks.