The Northridge High School football team may have entered the game with Utica last Friday at 1-3 overall, but coach Tim Priest couldn't be happier with the improvement his team has displayed from the opening day of practice.

The Northridge High School football team may have entered the game with Utica last Friday at 1-3 overall, but coach Tim Priest couldn't be happier with the improvement his team has displayed from the opening day of practice.

The Vikings returned little varsity experience from a team that finished 4-6 last season, but a young group continues to mature as it works through Friday night growing pains.

"A lot of people might not realize just how inexperienced we are," said Priest, whose team plays host Friday to East Knox in an MBC contest. "We're playing a lot of young guys, but even the juniors and seniors we're playing didn't play much last year. But we continue to get better each week and continue to gain more experience."

Northridge was battered by Fredericktown 64-7 on Sept. 18. The Vikings' score came on their first drive of the game. They drove 80 yards and took nearly seven minutes off the clock before sophomore quarterback Brandon Hull scored on a 1-yard keeper to tie the game at 7.

"We really do show the capability of being a good football team," Priest said. "We just need to play more consistently, and we as coaches need to work to call plays that best fit our kids."

The Vikings gave up 64 points, which is always painful to a defensive coordinator. But Dave Clayton can take solace in knowing his defense was starting four freshmen against the Freddies. They included linebackers Alex Blake and Thomas Williams as well as cornerback Storm Strout and defensive lineman Anthony Verhovec.

"We started four freshmen, who obviously are good athletes or they wouldn't be starting, but they are still freshmen and not used to playing on Friday nights," Clayton said. "They were going up against fast, talented skill players from Fredericktown. I think they had four skill kids who ran a 4.6 (seconds in the 40) or better. We're working on a learning curve here, especially when you go up against a team like Fredericktown with a bunch of two- or three-year starters."

Despite the inexperience, the Vikings offensive line has been effective. Junior running Tony Stanley gained 103 yards rushing against the Freddies for his third consecutive 100-yard performance.

"Our line has done good job, especially since (senior) Kolt (McDaniel) is the only returning starter. Rob Harger may be close to 300 pounds, but he was injured last year and didn't play so this is even his first year of starting," Priest said. "And Tony Stanley is quick and by far is the fastest kid on our football team. But he's a first-year varsity player as well and he can only get better. Every time he carries the ball on Friday night will make him better."

Against Fredericktown, the Vikings lost senior center E.J. Snider with a torn hip flexor and an injury to his pelvic bone. That moves sophomore Stephen Peters in to snap the ball with Harger and junior Tim Sullivan on the right and McDaniel and senior Tim Doran on the left. Doran moved to the interior line after being a tight end last season.

Friday's opponent, East Knox, was 0-4 before playing Centerburg last Friday. The Bulldogs were outscored 197-51 in their first four games.

"We expect them to come out in a double-tight (end) wishbone set because that's what they have run in the past," Clayton said. "That will be a welcome change after two weeks of seeing the spread (with Fredericktown and Utica)."

East Knox gave up 27 points in the first quarter to set the tone for a 55-13 loss to Utica on Sept. 18. Devin Wears had seven carries for 26 yards with a 4-yard touchdown run and Chase Cottrell had a 14-yard run for the other score. Colton Tucker led with 41 rushing yards on 12 carries.

Quarterback Tyler Clement was 8-for-13 passing for 98 yards against the Redskins and he also ran for 24 yards. Wears also caught three passes for 47 yards, Dakota Anderson had three receptions for 35 yards and Kahi Haralson added two catches for 16 yards.

"Our kids work hard and do what we ask of them, but they are still freshmen and sophomores maturity-wise," Clayton said. "They are learning and getting better each week, so there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it's a bright light. But we're young and there will definitely be some growing pains."


At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedules for the Northridge boys and girls cross country, boys golf, girls volleyball and boys soccer teams:

CROSS COUNTRY

Last Wednesday -- Boys: Finished last (107) of six teams in the Heath Bulldog Invitational behind champion Newark (55); Girls: Finished fourth (122) of seven teams in the Heath Bulldog Invitational behind champion Columbus School for Girls (29)

Tuesday -- At Fredericktown Invitational

Oct. 10 -- At Tech Lake for Johnstown Invitational

GOLF

Tuesday -- Division II sectional tournament at Players Club at Foxfire. The drawing for district site will be today at Pickerington North. Three teams and the top three players not on a qualifying team advance to district Oct. 5 at River Greens in Coshocton.

VOLLEYBALL

Sept. 19 -- Lost to Highland 25-23, 25-23 in the fifth-place match at the Granville Invitational. The Vikings also lost to Caledonia River Valley (25-15, 25-27, 25-23) and Granville (25-17, 25-18).

*Last Tuesday -- Lost to Utica 25-27, 25-19, 25-23, 10-25, 15-12. Ann Sniechowski had 42 assists with 15 digs, Genevieve Hager added 14 kills with 16 digs and Jessie Johnson had seven kills. Jessica Simmons had 19 digs and Kim Hazlett added seven kills with 20 digs.

*Last Thursday -- Lost to Fredericktown 25-22, 25-10, 22-25, 25-15

*Tuesday -- Home vs. East Knox

*Thursday -- At Centerburg

Saturday -- Home vs. Mansfield Ontario and Northmor

*Oct. 6 -- Home vs. Johnstown

Of note: The Vikings are 4-7 overall and 4-4 in the MBC.

*MBC contest

SOCCER

Sept. 19 -- Lost to Tree of Life 2-1

Last Monday -- Def. Northside Christian 8-0

Last Saturday -- At Zanesville Maysville

*Tuesday -- At Fairbanks

*Thursday -- At Johnstown

*Oct. 6 -- Home vs. Pleasant

Of note: The Vikings were 4-2-2 before last Saturday and are 1-0-2 in the NCSL.

*NCSL game

Next game

EAST KNOX at NORTHRIDGE

•When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

•Last meeting: 2008, East Knox 34-19

•East Knox (0-4 before last Friday) to date: Lost to Coshocton 55-9; lost to Grandview 41-19; lost to Bucyrus Wynford 46-10; lost to Utica 55-13; played Centerburg last Friday

•Northridge (1-3 before last Friday) to date: Lost to Columbus Academy 41-6; lost to Bexley 37-7; defeated Millersport 24-7; lost to Fredericktown 64-7; played Utica last Friday

•Top Bulldogs: Tyler Clement (QB), Colton Tucker (RB/LB) and Devin Wears (RB/DT)

•Top Vikings: Brandon Hull (QB/DB), Rob Harger (OL/DL), Kolt McDaniel (OL/DL) and Tony Stanley (RB/DB)