LAYTON — If you’re around Northridge High’s football practice this year, bring a roster if you can get your hands on one.
This year, the turnover that’s so constant in the high school football ranks has ratcheted up to the point where every Northridge player probably needs a “Hello, My Name is ___” name tag on their helmets.
“I haven’t been able to wrap my mind around it, it’s going to be a little crazy this year,” senior receiver Brigg Malan said.
It was the result of a senior-heavy 2017 season that saw the Knights finish in a three-way tie for second place in Region 1.
The coin flip for playoff seeding didn’t go their way and Northridge lost to eventual 6A runner-up East 49-13 in the first round.
Now the Knights push on in Braden Mitchell’s second year as head coach.
The other significance of the number two: that’s how many returning starters they have.
“I think that first game’s going to be a shock to a lot of them, under the Friday night lights, but I think after our two non-region games, hopefully we’ve got things in order,” Mitchell said.
Those two returning starters are linebacker Carson Stokes and defensive end/linebacker Jacob Rhoades.
Stokes and Rhoades understand their situation, Mitchell said. They’re the ones who have to be the leaders of the team, to do things the “right way.”
“It definitely puts a little more weight on my shoulders and gives me a little more of a boost to work harder, and things aren’t going to come as easy,” Stokes said.
Stokes said he’s been impressed with the work ethic of the offensive line, which is going to block for a new junior quarterback.
Good skill players and an undersized team are kind of the name of the game and have been at Northridge. That hasn’t changed this year.
“We’ve always had a smaller team, but we’ve always been good. We’ve just had a lot of fight in us and I think that’s what we have this year is a lot of fight,” said Malan, who added he stands at 5-foot-7, 140 pounds.
Mitchell said the situation Northridge faces (a young team a year after a senior-heavy team) isn’t something new to him, even if he’s just in his second year as head coach.
“I want to say it was the 2009 season, we were very senior-heavy the year before and then we brought back, I think ... one lineman,” Mitchell said.
That season, the Knights were in the thick of the playoff race and finished 5-5 overall and 3-5 in the old eight-team 5A Region 1.
They were two games out of a playoff spot and were three points away from finishing a game out of the playoffs in fifth.
“It definitely challenged us as coaches, had to scheme up and kind of change things a lot because of the inexperience and playing a lot of juniors,” Mitchell said.
Before the Region 1 campaign begins, Northridge will be part of an historic event in Week 2 when the Knights play new school Farmington High in the Phoenix’s home opener.
It will have even more meaning for Northridge as Farmington’s head coach is Northridge alumnus Daniel Coats, who coached with the Knights last year.
The Knights have a new defensive coordinator, Trent Gill, who coached at the varsity level last season.
Key stretch: Late September brings two region road games. The first is against what should be a tough Fremont team, the next is against Layton.
Impact players: Linebacker Carson Stokes made plays all over the field on defense last year. He finds the ball fast.