LAYTON -- It has to be the new uniforms.
How else could the Knights be 4-0 at home this season?
"Our crowd helps us, and we play differently at home with our new all-black uniforms," said Northridge senior quarterback Karson Casteel.
In their Region 1 finale today at Northridge Stadium, the Knights (6-2 overall, 3-1 league) and Davis High (5-2-1, 3-1) play for home-field advantage in the upcoming state 5-A playoffs.
Northridge hasn't hosted a 5-A first-round game since 2007.
The Knights are riding a three-game winning streak, with their last two victories by a combined six points.
Davis, 1-1-1 on the road, has won its last two and is 4-1 spanning its last five games.
"We're finishing games better, but we're still making mistakes," Northridge coach Erik Thompson said. "Our best football is still to come. We've been decimated by injuries all season and we're turning the ball over a lot.
"So when we finally get healthy and stop turning the ball over, we'll be a lot better team," he said. "I don't know what that team looks like; we'll hope that team shows up Friday."
The Darts have won three straight versus the Knights, but the 'Ridge leads the all-time series 10-8.
"Davis has the No. 1 defense in the state 5-A ranks (allowing just 9.62 points per game). We're well aware of that, so it's going to be a grind," Thompson said. "They are more of a 3-4 team and more aggressive in what they do. It's going to come down to kids making plays. You're not going to march it on Davis."
The Knights are averaging 30.88 ppg; the most points Davis has allowed in a game is 21 against undefeated Lone Peak, which averages a 5-A best 37.12 points per game.
"Big plays and turnovers will be huge, and field position -- if we can get a short field and not have to go the length of the field -- will be equally important," Thompson said. "We have to do what we do best, and they do a good job of scheming to take that away. It will be a chess match behind the scenes.
"It's going to be a low-scoring game, and as a coach, you prepare for a 14-10 game," he said. "But you never know, because sometimes kids make plays. In order to move the ball against Davis, which is so good against the run, you have to throw the ball. I feel confident with Karson at quarterback."
The 6-foot-5 Casteel has completed 130-of-217 passes for 1,940 yards with 16 touchdowns and four interceptions. He has rushed for 106 yards and six touchdowns on 25 carries.
"Karson stays poised, confident and is always under control," Thompson said. "He has a great grasp of the game and could call the game if I wasn't there."
Casteel is not coming off a stellar performance against the Lancers, where he threw two interceptions.
"I didn't have my two best games against Olympus and Layton," he said. "I usually come back strong after a bad game. We thought going in we could throw the ball and their front seven was their strength, but we could run the ball on them.
"The first pick was kind of a freaky deal; the second one was just a bad ball," Casteel said. "I hate throwing picks. We have playmakers that I get the ball to and they just do their thing."
Tailback David Adams has rushed for 756 yards and nine touchdowns on 98 carries, with 35 receptions for 516 yards and six touchdowns. Tight end Christian Schlichte has 26 receptions for 539 yards and three touchdowns.
"We're balanced offensively," Casteel said. "We're efficient in both areas and we attack whatever the defense is giving us. I think we have two of the best playmakers in the state in Adams and Schlichte; they present matchup problems.
To no one's surprise, Casteel prefers throwing the football.
"I like the deep ball and coach (Thompson) allows me to change the play," he said. "We're a good team right now, and if we eliminate the turnovers -- we've had at least two turnovers a game -- we can be even better. Eliminate the turnovers and we can put up 14 more points a game.
"We're committing turnovers and still winning because our defense has been playing great," Casteel said. "The biggest adjustment for me becoming a starter was getting used to the speed of the varsity game. My height helps me; I'm bigger than most of my offensive line. I can see everything."
Casteel started his football career playing center when he was 8 years old. He played tight end the next two years, and after moving down to his own age group, became a quarterback at age 11.
"Coach (Thompson) won't let me play defense to take some of my anger out," Casteel said. "Running the offense just kind of comes to you, but there is a lot of studying involved. (Quarterback coach) Braden Mitchell has been my coach since I was a sophomore. I've learned a lot from him."
* WEEK 9 NOTES: Of the state's 101 football teams, nine have already been eliminated from state playoff contention with 19 more teams facing elimination this week. Of those, 10 have to win or miss the playoffs. ...
Defending Region 1 champion Fremont can win its second straight outright league title -- it would be the Silver Wolves' fifth league title since 2002 -- with a road victory over Layton. If Fremont loses, it shares the Region 1 title with the Davis-Northridge winner. Weber -- the lone winless 5-A team -- is eliminated from state 5-A playoff contention with a road loss to Syracuse. If the Titans and Lancers each win today, they would have a fourth-place playoff game next week. A Layton win and a Syracuse loss eliminates the Titans from 5-A playoff contention. ...
Fremont and Layton have split their last four games; the Silver Wolves lead the series 11-6. ...
A Box Elder road win over undefeated Logan -- one of six unbeaten teams -- forces the Grizzlies to share the Region 5 title with Mountain Crest, if the Mustangs -- locked in as a No. 2 seed -- beat Roy. If Logan wins and Sky View loses to Bonneville, there will be a three-way between the Bees, Bobcats and Lakers for the league's last two state 4-A playoff berths. The Royals have already been eliminated from 4-A playoff contention. ...
Box Elder and Logan tangle for the 93rd time in the state's second most-played rivalry. They played annually from 1919 through 2004 and have again since 2007, with the Bees leading 60-29-3. Box Elder coach Robbie Gunter goes for his 50th career victory. Sky View and Bonneville have split their last eight games; the Lakers lead the series 19-9-1. ...
Clearfield and Cyprus -- the only winless state 4-A team -- play for just the third time. The Falcons, who have been eliminated from 4-A playoff contention, won in 1972 and 1973.