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Erik Thompson leaving Northridge's successful football program to try to turn around woeful Ogden

LAYTON — On the surface, this career move simply doesn't make much sense.

After all, Erik Thompson has been a teacher and football coach at Northridge High School for the past 19 seasons, the last 13 of them as the Knights' head coach. Over those 13 seasons, the charismatic Thompson went 78-60 overall and guided Northridge into the state playoffs 10 times during that span.

This past season, his team over-achieved and reached the 5A playoffs after being picked to finish fifth in the coaches' preseason poll. What's more, he would've had a whopping 18 returning starters off that team coming back next fall, which is certainly a promising sign for continued success.

However, in a surprising move, Thompson has decided to leave Northridge and take the head coaching job at Ogden High School, a downtrodden program that has endured three straight winless seasons.

In fact, Ogden High's football team spent the past two years playing an independent schedule because of worries it could not be competitive in the region it had been assigned to play in by the Utah High School Activities Association.

Turns out OHS was right. In fact, it probably would've been difficult for the Tigers' once-proud program, now struggling with a scarcity of players and socioeconomic/eligibility issues, which have seriously hampered its hopes for respectability, to be competitive in any region.

Over the last three years, Ogden's teams have been outscored by an average of 45-11. The Tigers are currently stuck in a disheartening streak of 33 straight losses, haven't been to the state playoffs since 2011, and haven't had a winning season since 2009.

So Thompson, a highly successful coach who's had a nice run at a school located less than 15 miles away, has decided to take over the Tigers' long-suffering program.

Huh? Wouldn't that be kinda like leaving the Denver Broncos to go play for the Cleveland Browns? Like dumping Brad Pitt for PeeWee Herman? Like going out to a nice restaurant and, rather than a T-bone steak, ordering a corn dog instead?

I mean, my gosh, Erik Thompson is a darned good football coach and a very smart guy, too. But has he lost his mind?

No, he insists he hasn't. He knows what he's doing, and what he's doing is this: He's gonna take his career path in another, different direction, taking on a valiant challenge with hopes of having a very positive impact on not only a sputtering football program, but a high school community that's in dire need of a dramatic turnaround.

He knows he'll have his hands full. He knows it will be the biggest challenge of his coaching career, far bigger than when he took over a Northridge program that had swept three straight state championships from 2000-02 under former head coach Fred Fernandes, with Thompson serving as the lead assistant on the Knights' staff before taking over the top job.

And while there was plenty of pressure to continue Northridge's winning ways, that was nothing compared to this.

Heck, let's be realistic. Ogden High hasn't won a varsity football game since late September 2013. Over the last 15 years, the Tigers have won a total of just 32 games — an average of just over two wins per season. In five of those seasons, they went winless. In seven other years, they won three games or less. They had just one winning season from 2002-2016 — a 6-4 record in 2009 — and won more than three games in a season only three times during that span.

So, yes, sadly, the bar has been set awfully, awfully low at Ogden, and there's only one way to go.

Thompson is hoping he's the guy who can take them there.

"I believe Ogden is where I can have the most impact," he said in a prepared statement. "I feel a connection to Ogden High School and feel that now is the time for me to be at Ogden. My mother (Helen) has taught in Ogden city schools for many years, and many of my friends are close to Ogden High School and they often talk about their love for the school and its rich traditions.

"Although Ogden has gone through a rough patch lately, there is a lot of potential at Ogden. The players and community are hungry for success, and I believe I can be part of the positive change. I feel that my life experiences and skill-set are especially well-suited to succeed at Ogden. I believe I can connect with players, create a family atmosphere, and motivate players to over-achieve.

"I know it is going to take a lot of hard work, trust in the process, and time," he said. "Success will not happen overnight, but I am confident it will happen. There are already many great things happening at Ogden. I have tremendous respect for coach Kent Taylor (who guided the Tigers' fortunes for the last four years). I can hardly wait to get started. Ogden High was meant to shine. And it will shine — with a collective effort."

Thompson has loved the many lasting friendships he's made and the wonderful family atmosphere he's been a part of in his 19 years at Northridge. He knows those experiences have helped make him the man he is today, and he'll always have a special place in his heart for those people who made his days at Northridge so special and meaningful.

But now he's ready to tackle a new, giant-sized challenge. It will be mighty difficult, but he has a chance to make a huge difference in the lives of young men who need a special someone who can do that. Indeed, the ever-enthusiastic and personable Thompson just might be the right guy for the job.

Here's hoping he is, and that he has tremendous success.