After going winless in 1996, Northridge's second-year coach, Fred Fernandes, said before this season that he simply wanted his Knights to be competitive and earn some respect.
At the very least, he just wanted his team to be better."It would've been hard to be any worse," he joked.
Aside from one forgettable game against second-ranked Skyline more than a month ago - a 35-point shutout loss - the Knights have definitely accomplished the competitive part. And, just in time for the playoffs, respect is certainly on the way.
Completing an incredible season, the Knights pummeled Clearfield 52-6 Thursday night to clinch second place in Region 1. Northridge finished 8-1 overall and 6-1 in league play.
This from a team that was picked to finish last in the league in a preseason coaches' poll.
"It's a great turnaround there," said Clearfield coach Randy Johnson, whose team dropped to 5-4, 3-3. "They've got the running game. They've got the linemen, the backs and all the tools it takes to be competitive."
The Falcons found that out the hard way Thursday night. They scored a touchdown on their first drive, but after that it was the Knights and Mother Nature who dominated the game.
Northridge finished with more than 300 yards rushing, topped by Jeremy Kentch's 137-yard, two-touchdown performance. Todd Nielson also scored a pair of TDs for the Knights.
"We had no idea we could run the football like that against Clearfield," said Fernandes.
Normally the Knights have a strong passing game, but they were forced to rush more because of a bruised rotator cuff in starting quarterback John Martinez's throwing shoulder. Martinez still played, but he didn't throw the ball at all. He rushed for 60 yards with a touchdown and a two-point conversion.
Northridge also got a big effort from its special teams. The Knights blocked two field goals and turned both of them into touchdowns, including Adrien Sanders' 80-yard return with no time left in the first half.
The Knights will host the winner of tonight's Hillcrest-Jordan game in the first round of the playoffs next week. Clearfield, the No. 4 seed from Region 1, will travel to face Orem.