LAYTON— Early season or late, home or away, Northridge-Layton never falls short.
If this crosstown rivalry needed any more spice — the Knights (6-1 overall, 2-1 league) and Lancers (3-4, 2-1) are deadlocked for second place in Region 1 with one league contest remaining after today’s Sword Game at Lancer Stadium — there have been two overtime contests between the two teams in the last four years.
“I’m wishing it was Friday already like everybody else and jump right into rivalry week,” said Layton High senior guard/middle linebacker Zackery Wilding on Wednesday. “It’s always a big game when we play Northridge.”
The Knights lead the series 15-5 with three straight wins. Since 2008, the largest victory margin for either team has been just four points.
“This is the seniors’ last chance to beat them,” said the 17-year-old Wilding, a three-year offensive starter. “It’s all we do is watch film on them and it’s a big part of the game nowadays. This game has a lot of meaning to us. We want that home game in the playoffs, and we’ve only lost at home once this year to Hunter (25-20 in Week 1).”
If undefeated Syracuse beats Fremont, the Northridge-Layton winner clinches a state 5-A playoff berth.
“I think traveling gets to us a little,” Wilding said. “This way, we can stay at home, focus down and play at home. We love the home crowd and we get good support, win or lose.”
The Lancers have not qualified for the 5-A playoffs since their 2008 Region 1 championship season.
“It’s going to be a close game throughout. Field position and who wants it more,” Wilding said. “Turnovers are always a big part of the game, so we need to take care of the ball and force some turnovers.”
Northridge was held to a season-low point total in a 21-14 loss to the Titans on Sept. 28.
“If we shut (tailback) Davy Adams down, then we can win easily,” Wilding said. “They only have a couple of other weapons and we win the skill position battle.”
Adams has rushed for 791 yards and 12 touchdowns on 116 carries. He also has a team-high 28 receptions for 421 yards and four touchdowns.
Junior quarterback Nate Kusuda has completed 86 of 140 passes for 1,344 yards and 12 touchdowns with three interceptions. Wideout Zach Hayes has 28 catches for a team-leading 471 yards and five touchdowns.
Adams, Kusuda and Wilding were once little-league football teammates.
“I was the center on the same team with Nate and Davy when I was 10 or 11 years old,” Wilding said. “I have a lot of respect for Davy and what he has accomplished. I emailed him last year and told him good job. He ran the ball great and never stopped once.”
In the Knights’ 27-24 double-overtime win on Oct. 8, 2011, Adams ran for 117 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries.
“We’ll just play Davy straight up and play Layton High football against him,” Wilding said. “We’re just friends. We chirp at each other during the game and that’s football. I don’t think Nate remembers me. If there is some pushing and shoving after the play, I’ll get a chirp in.
“The battle for Layton is always a good one,” he said. “It should be again this year.”
The Lancers have yet to win consecutive games this season.
“We’ve played the toughest schedule in the state (blowout road losses to Jordan, Bingham and Syracuse) and that’s a big part of it,” Wilding said. “It would be nice to finally win back-to-back games in the latter part of the season. Like coach (and offensive coordinator Scott) Applegate says, ‘Nobody remembers what you do in the first half, just the second half.’ I guess that applies to the second half of the season, too.
“Davis (a 41-21 victory on Sept. 28) was close to our best game, but we can still take another step,” Wilding said. “There is always room for improvement, but that Davis win was a huge confidence builder for us.
“I think we’re balanced offensively,” he said. “We have demonstrated the ability to run the ball or throw it. If the run is working, we’ll run it 40 times. If not, we’ll throw it right over their heads to (wideouts Marcus) Kemp and (Tyler) Fox. (Quarterback Hunter) Evans has progressed a lot from last year, even though he is only a junior.”
Kemp has 23 receptions for 542 yards and a team-high seven touchdowns. Fox has a team-leading 31 catches for 499 yards and three touchdowns. Evans has completed 85 of 168 passes for 1,349 yards and 10 touchdowns with five picks.
Tailback Willie Uasilaa has rushed for 519 yards and six touchdowns on 112 carries.
“We’re kind of a spread and pistol look,” Wilding said. “We have a great running back in Willie. It dumbfounds me how well he sets up the blockers. Willie has a little shoulder dip, and he also has that little extra gear if he needs another yard. He’ll lower that shoulder and get it.”
After getting the defensive play call from coach Jim Batchelor, Wilding relays it to the team and gets everybody lined up right.
“I love playing middle linebacker; it’s my favorite position,” he said. “I love being the quarterback of the defense. I have to be stout because everything is funneled back to the middle in a 4-3 (scheme).”
Wilding has 56 tackles and two sacks.
“I like being there for my teammates. If they make a mistake, I’m there to correct them,” he said. “I’ll chew them out, but then I’ll pat them on the helmet and say, ‘Let’s fix it,’ ”
Wilding says defense will be key against Northridge.
Strong-side linebacker Daviaire Dickerson has 61 tackles and four sacks; weak-side linebacker Alex Astle has 12 tackles.
“We’re pretty good as a group. Our defensive line lets us make the plays,” Wilding said. “I feel like we match up against the ’Ridge.”
• Week 8 notes: With a win over Fremont, the Titans — the lone unbeaten state 5-A team — clinch no less than a tie for their first Region 1 title and home-field advantage in the 5-A playoffs. The two-time defending league champion Silver Wolves beat Syracuse twice last year — the second time in the state 5-A semifinals — and lead the series 4-2. Davis and Weber tangle for the 48th time with the Darts winning the last eight to lead 32-12-3. A loss by the Warriors, who have the state’s longest losing streak at 20 games dating back to the 2010 season, eliminates Weber from 5-A playoff contention. ... Bonneville leads Box Elder 25-17 with a loss to the Bees and a Roy win over Sky View eliminating the Lakers — on a four-game slide — from state 4-A playoff contention. Box Elder secures a 4-A playoff berth with a win. The Bobcats lead the Royals 21-13-1 with eight consecutive victories, but the Royals grab a state 4-A playoff berth with a win over Sky View and a Bees’ victory over Bonneville. ... Clearfield leads Woods Cross 5-4. They played annually from 1981-88 and again last year. ... Grantsville beat Bear River the last two years to close the Bears’ lead to 9-6. Morgan has a 8-7-1 lead over winless Tooele.