LAYTON — Fremont at Northridge was billed as the regular-season game of the year, and amazingly, it more than lived up to the hype.
In front of a packed crowd at Northridge, the top-ranked Knights scored 22 unanswered points in the second half to rally past No. 3 Fremont 42-35 Friday night.
"I just told them to stay calm," said Northridge coach Erik Thompson, when his team fell behind 35-20 in the second half. "(But) I didn't have to say anything, they never believed they were going to lose."
It would have been easy, however, for Northridge to get down on itself. In falling behind by two touchdowns, the Knights had no answer for Fremont's high-octane offense, which racked up over 400 yards of total offense in the first three quarters.
The Knights finally got a much-needed defensive play late in the third quarter, which swung momentum back in their favor.
"It looked for a second like we might get blown out," said Thompson.
After Northridge cut the deficit to 35-27 late in the third quarter, like they'd done all game, the Silver Wolves marched virtually unimpeded downfield to the Knights' 25-yard line. That's when the match-up of undefeated teams did a 180-degree turn.
On a second-down play, Fremont quarterback Joel Hancock tried dumping a soft pass over the middle to Brandon Noyes. The receiver was clobbered by a pair of Northridge defenders, and the ball popped directly to Bryant Eteuati — who returned the opening kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown.
Northridge capitalized on Fremont's second turnover of the game with an eight-play, 82-yard drive that Knights' quarterback T.J. Canales capped on a one-yard TD run. The resulting two-point conversion tied the game at 35-35 with well over nine minutes remaining.
The situation only got worse for Fremont.
On the first play of the ensuing drive, Hancock was drilled just prior to throwing the ball, a fumble that Northridge's Chad Crowell pounced on. Three plays later, Canales connected with Eteuati on a 23-yard touchdown pass turning Northridge's student section into an impromptu mosh-pit with 8:17 remaining in the game.
Despite a lack-luster first half, Canales still completed 22-of-38 passes for 273 yards and two touchdowns.
Canales' second-half heroics could've still been for not, as Fremont's potent offense still had two more cracks at the tying touchdown. Those two drives, however, ended in a punt and then a game-winning interception by Eteuati with 69 seconds remaining in the game.
"(The key) was our defense getting those turnovers," said Canales.
While Northridge didn't turn the ball over once, Fremont was left wondering what might've been after committing four turnovers in a game it was in complete control of.
Despite the loss, Hancock still completed 28-of-44 passes for 361 yards.
With the victory, Northridge improves to 7-0 and is clearly in the driver's seat for the Region 1 championship. Fremont falls to 6-1, but is probably already salivating over a potential playoff game against Northridge.