SYRACUSE — Northridge and Syracuse were engaged in a grueling, grinding football contest that turned out far differently than most Syracuse homecoming revelers anticipated. Both teams struggled at times during the evening defensively and offensively, each making their share of fumbles, picks and miscues. But in the end, the Knights managed to hold off the Titans’ fourth-quarter heroics — pulling off a 28-25 win.
The Knights got on the boards within the first five minutes as Karson Casteel fired a touchdown pass to junior David Adams. The Titans appeared dazed when only three minutes later Casteel launched a 65-yard pass to Jaeger Allred, who sprinted into the end zone, upping the score to 14-0.
Syracuse rallied back by holding the Knights to less than 10 yards on their next series. A blocked Northridge kick at the Syracuse 1-yard line popped up like a fly ball into the end zone where it was caught by Titan Alex Vanderloo. With the extra point by Brock Anderson, Syracuse was finally on the boards, 7-14.
Halfway into the second quarter, Titan Taylor Carlson retrieved a Northridge fumble. A pass by quarterback Trevor Davis to Mason Woodward carried the ball to the 40-yard line. Davis’ next pass was intercepted by David Adams and the Knights found themselves on the 10-yard line with only 33.7 seconds left in the quarter.
A Northridge pass into the end zone was picked off by Carlson again, and Syracuse managed to get to the 30-yard line. With 1-yard to go and 9.4 seconds left on the clock, the Titans attempted first a pass into the end zone and then settled for a field goal — ending the first half at 10-14.
The Northridge offense stalled after gaining possession at the start of the half. Syracuse had come out ready to take control but was stopped short at the 3-yard line by the Knights defense. A Northridge pass fumbled by Adams at the 35-yard line seemed to disappear into a sea of helmets and shoulder pads before emerging in the hands of 265-pound Titan defensive lineman Corey Cook.
Cook rumbled the ball 64 yards to the 1-yard line, where Davis took the QB keep into the end zone. The extra point by Anderson was good, and the Titans were finally ahead 17-14.
Northridge had allowed 17 unanswered points and five fumbles, but Casteel was determined he was not leaving town without a win.
“We were all getting really frustrated,” Casteel said. “Our turnovers and errors were beginning to wear on all of us. I knew we would pull it out though, and we were going to go get them.”
The momentum shifted to Northridge again as Casteel fired a screen pass to Adams that he turned into a 73-yard touchdown. Seth Christensen’s kick hit the left goal post before popping through for the extra point, and a 21-17 lead at the end of the third quarter.
Northridge scored another touchdown in the fourth minute of the final quarter, and the 28-17 score made it look like the Titans might be done. But the Titans were also fighting for the win and kept pushing forward. Davis passed first to Koa Mo’o for 10 yards, then to Brock Anderson, Mason Woodward, and finally run in by Matt Dunston — for a hard-fought touchdown. With a pass to Diante Mitchell for two points, the Titans were closing in on the Knights, 25-28, with 3:24 left in play.
The Knights maintained possession of the ball all the way to the 12-yard line before relinquishing the ball with less than a minute to play.
Syracuse battled back, getting into the red zone with 19.5 seconds left. A pass interference call against Northridge gave the Titans first down and put them within scoring range. A pass to Shane Russell for a gain of 5 yards left 1.7 seconds on the clock. A field goal attempt by Brock Anderson, which would have tied the game, was blocked by the Knights and the game ended 28-25 with a victory for Northridge.
Syracuse simply ran out of time against the Knights. This game was the most points the Titans have given up all season.
With the win, Northridge is 2-1 in Region 1 standings. Both teams are 5-2-0 overall. Syracuse goes on the road against Fremont next week and Northridge takes on Layton at home.