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LAYTON — Two undefeated Region 1 teams.
Two football squads determined to emerge victorious.
Two high-powered offensive machines that take apart their opponents.
And yet, Friday night’s showdown between Syracuse and Northridge was all about defense — and execution.
And execute Syracuse's players did, grinding out a 21-14 road victory over the Knights, leaving the Titans alone atop the Region 1 standings.
“Our kids were ready and disciplined, and they wanted this game,” said Syracuse head coach Russ Jones. “Northridge has a tremendous program and their players are solid. They really made us battle for everything tonight.”
The first quarter, although scoreless, found both teams battling back and forth for yardage and position.
Tension was building for both teams throughout the second quarter.
A Northridge face-mask penalty at the top of the quarter brought the Titans to Northridge's 15-yard line, followed shortly by Myles Naisbitt’s 12-yard carry into the end zone. The extra point by QB Brock Anderson lit up the scoreboard 7-0 for the Titans.
Northridge responded at the end of the quarter with a short run into the end zone by QB Nate Kusuda.
Unable to convert yardage to points, Syracuse was forced to punt away the ball with two minutes on the clock. Kusuda had a short gain on the possession before being sacked by Syracuse's Kaden Craig. With seconds left in the half, both teams called timeouts in a struggle to regain dominance.
The second quarter ended, tied at 7-7.
Drives by both teams at the start of the third quarter were proving futile, but Northridge reconnected later with a three-play, 58-yard run by David Adams and the Knights pulled ahead 14-7.
Syracuse answered with a 35-yard TD reception by Kiwa Mo’o, tying the score again at 14-14.
Game momentum would swing in favor of the Titans, as they pinned the Knights down at the 20-yard line and regained possession on a blocked punt snap. Syracuse RB Mason Woodward scored on a short 5-yard run, followed by Anderson’s extra point to give Syracuse a seven-point lead.
“Anderson has such poise under pressure,” said coach Jones. “He really delivers in both rushing and passing. Both teams played hard. Northridge did a great job and did the things that they do well. We just connected with a few more plays than they did.”
Northridge’s Kusuda kept the ball on the ground during the fourth quarter, converting one fourth down and three third-down plays before getting sacked by Cardon Malan.
A pass to Zach Hayes brought the Knights to first-and-goal at the 6-yard line. With 1 yard to go on fourth down, the Knights were stopped cold by Kaden Craig.
The Titan offensive onslaught never looked back, with both Woodward and Fonua pushing up the middle and carries by Anderson and Diante Mitchell allowed the Titans to run out the clock.
“It was a great game. There was a charged atmosphere here tonight. Both schools had huge crowds out,” said Syracuse quarterback Brock Anderson. “It’s the kind of matchup you dream of when you’re a little kid, being able to grow up one day and play in a ball game like this.”
When asked what he thought of the Titans’ No. 2 statewide ranking, Jones replied: “We try to keep the kids pretty level-headed. The rankings are fun for the fans, but the reality of it is you’ve just got to play one game at a time and do your best to work and get better.
"We still have a couple of region games left, and Region 1 is tough top to bottom, so we’ll just look at the game film and see what we can do to improve ourselves and just move forward in the future.”
Anderson completed 15-for-17 passing for 168 yards and two touchdowns.
Syracuse remains undefeated (7-0) and takes on Fremont (1-6) next Friday at home.