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Northridge duo is eyeing next level

Northridge players could be at Michigan, Oregon

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Northridge running back Jamar Lee, shown being tackled by Viewmont linebacker Sean England, has idolized the Oregon Ducks since he was a youngster.

Northridge running back Jamar Lee, shown being tackled by Viewmont linebacker Sean England, has idolized the Oregon Ducks since he was a youngster.

Keith Johnson, Deseret Morning News

One of college football's biggest upsets last weekend was Oregon's shocker over Michigan before a packed house at Eugene, Ore. The home-and-home series doesn't resume until 2007 when the Ducks visit the Big House. That's three long years for Michigan fans to anguish over the loss.

Who knows, by then the rematch could be a reunion for two Northridge High football players.

Lynwood Johnson is the Knights' senior fullback, who would love nothing more than to return to his Midwest roots and play college football in Ann Arbor, Mich.

"I'd love to get back there," said Johnson, who was raised in Wisconsin.

Jamar Lee is another Northridge senior running back, but he's idolized the Oregon Ducks since he was a little kid.

"I've grown to love them," said Lee.

Their aspirations of playing for the respective big-time programs isn't a pipe dream. They're both extremely talented athletes with bright futures ahead of them no matter where they end up.

"I think both can play Division I football, and with a few breaks they could both play on Sunday," said Northridge coach Fred Fernandes.

Both Johnson and Lee are Air Force kids, whose parents work at Hill Air Force Base just up the road from Northridge High.

Johnson grew up in Wisconsin but moved to Layton a week into his sophomore season after the Air Force reassigned his mother to Utah. He gradually became an integral part of the offense, and during the 5A state championship game as a junior last season, he rushed for a state record four touchdowns.

Lee, on the other hand, has lived in Utah his whole life. His mother is from California and his father is from Louisiana, and they met while being stationed at Hill Air Force Base.

The differences don't end there for Northridge dynamic duo.

Johnson is a big, powerful fullback who is an excellent receiver as well.

"He runs and catches well, and he obviously blocks well," said Lee of his counterpart. "I'm mostly impressed with how he catches the ball."

Lee is a small, slashing tailback who makes defenders look silly.

"I'm impressed with his speed and his ability to change direction, and how he can break tackles," said Johnson. "A lot of times he doesn't even need a blocker."

Five games into the 2003 season, Lee has eight touchdowns and Johnson has five touchdowns for the No. 1 Knights.

Amazingly, neither back gets jealous when his counterpart is having a bigger game.

At virtually any other school in the state, Johnson and Lee would be the feature back and carry the ball about 30 times per game. At Northridge though, in a passing system no less, they barely get 30 touches between them.

"I like it," said Johnson. "If they take away somebody, they're leaving somebody open."

Often times, who carries the rushing burden is situational.

"It all depends on the team we're playing, and the defense they're playing," said Fernandes. "If a defense has seven guys in the box, and we can just run 'I Power,' then in that situation Jamar is the work horse.

"If we've got a team where we've got to trap block a little more, and we run out of a pro set, then Lynwood carries much of the load."

Either way, Fernandes admits trying to distribute the ball as evenly and fairly as possible is difficult challenge, but he's definitely not complaining. After all, with a duo like Johnson and Lee, it's easy to see why Northridge is favored to win its fourth straight state championship this year.

FRIDAY NIGHT HIGHLIGHTS: If you were among the majority of high school football fans who sat through most of last week's boring games, your payback is this Friday. The slate is full of great games . . . In the 3A ranks, No. 1 Pine View travels to No. 2 Snow Canyon in a game that could ultimately determine the region champ. Lehi also faces North Sanpete in a key Region 8 game . . . In 4A, Highland is at Bountiful, Bonneville travels to Logan and Timpview plays host to surprising American Fork . . . The 5A lineup isn't shabby either. Undefeated Hillcrest hosts undefeated Alta in what should be a thrilling offensive show . . . Millard hosts Beaver in a big 2A game, while in Class 1A top-ranked Monticello travels to always tough Rich Rebels.

PICKS ON THE WEB: Try your hand at picking the winners of 12 prep football games each week in the Deseret Morning News Grid Picks. Last week's winner of 763 entrees was Mark Chappell of West Valley City, who won $50. He picked 11 of 12 games correctly, and only missed the tiebreaker by one. If you're feeling lucky this week, submit your predictions through the Prep Sports page at www.deseretnews.com/preps.

PREPS ON THE WEB: Can't wait for the nightly scores? Log on to www.deseretnews.com/preps to see the scores as soon as the Deseret Morning News receives the information from the coaches. While there, check out your favorite high school's own Web page complete with the state's most comprehensive standings, schedules, results and leaders.

E-MAIL: jedward@desnews.com