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LAYTON — Through four region games, Bountiful had only given up 8.5 points per game and had proved to be one of the best defensive teams in the state.
That defense showcased its dominance once again Friday in a 59-14 win over Northridge on the road to claim the Region 5 title.
The Redhawks only needed a single quarter to pounce to a 24-0 lead, which created a gap that was impossible for the Knights to overcome. But the key in getting the early lead was Bountiful's defensive pressure that forced two fumbles — one picked up and returned 9 yards for a touchdown by Jordan Walton, an interception by Carson Webster and several sacks in the first 12 minutes of the game.
Thanks to the defense, the Redhawks offense had an easy time getting points on the scoreboard after starting their first quarter possessions from the Knights' 35-, 23-, and 3-yard line. This set up junior running back Corbin Cottle for two touchdowns in the opening quarter.
"Defense wins championships," Bountiful head coach Jason Freckleton said. "We do turnover drills; we preach turnovers and winning football games through turnovers, and we saw that tonight."
With an early big lead, it would have been easy for Bountiful to lighten the pressure or become lackadaisical; but as the saying goes, the Redhawks were all gas, no brakes.
After Bountiful fumbled and lost possession of the ball 1 yard short of another touchdown to start the second quarter, Jacob Brooks got to Northridge quarterback Malikai Williams, who played in the first half after starter Maximus Fonoti-Maikui was injured early in the opening quarter, and forced a safety.
The next two Bountiful possessions resulted in touchdowns, including a 2-yard touchdown run by Drew Bowles that was followed by Cottle for his third of the game. Bountiful scored on all but one of its first-half possessions, pushing the halftime lead to 40-7. The rest was just a formality.
With the win, Bountiful secured the teams' first region title since 2012. Freckleton said his team has progressed each year and made it possible to get to where they are now: winning the region title.
"We've talked about it; we talked about it in the offseason; you talk about it in the summer," Freckleton said. "Every team wants it, but what are you going to do to make it a reality?
"We've taken some good steps year by year, and this year we took the next step and prepared ourselves to play this game and fight for a region championship — and we did. We came out and executed and won the game."
Although a region title is an accomplishment in and of itself, the Redhawks still believe there is more to prove.
And after a dominant win, and with one game left in the regular season before the state playoffs, there are a few things they will look to clean up: execution.
"I think we just need to continue to improve our execution one play at a time — not being satisfied, staying hungry, and never overlooking anybody," Freckleton said. "The closer we get as a family, the better we're going to be. So they just need to keep working together, keep believing in each other and keep fighting."
Bountiful (6-2, 5-0 Region 5) will play its final game Wednesday at Sky View while Northridge (6-3, 3-2 Region 5) will finish the regular season Friday at Cottonwood.