Prep football: Doubters fuel Northridge's Mayberry
Layton • Northridge defensive lineman Eliyah Mayberry glared at the lineman tasked with stopping him.
Thick eye black streaked down Mayberry's cheeks as he approached the line of scrimmage during the final defensive stand in the Knights' 22-20 rain-soaked win over Davis on Friday
Mayberry had been asked to describe his style of play a day earlier in an empty classroom on Northridge's campus. His tone of voice as he responded had been tranquil, but his eye black-stained and battered in-game persona helped confirm the truth of his answer.
The defining thing about Mayberry's game, he had divulged in the classroom, is that he plays with a chip on his shoulder. Opposing offenses might concede it seems more like a boulder, built from a lifetime of Mayberry being told he wasn't good enough.
"They'd be like, 'Oh, you're not big enough. You're not fast enough. You're not strong enough,'" Mayberry said. "I took that to heart. Maybe it was because of my background or how I look, but people never really believed in me. I've always had to fight for people's approval."
Despite outside doubters, Mayberry's confidence never wavered. He instead used the negativity for fuel, which motivates him to work harder, to get better.
The results have been satisfying. The senior is among the state leaders in sacks, and he's become the centerpiece of the Northridge defense, which has led the Knights to a second-place finish in Region 1.
"I've always had to prove everything I do," Mayberry said. "I'm not very big, but when I play D-line, I want to prove to everybody that I can play it just as good."
Northridge coach Erik Thompson said Mayberry has surpassed playing defensive line "just as good" as anyone else and has become one of the most productive players in the state. Thompson said what sets Mayberry apart is his versatility. He is effective against the rush, so he often plays in the interior on first and second downs before coming off the edge on third down.
Mayberry is able to penetrate the backfield from both the tackle and end positions, which means the Knights don't have to blitz to get pressure on the quarterback. That leads to better coverage downfield.
"He's a one-man wrecking crew when it comes to pressuring the quarterback," Thompson said.
Mayberry's ability is not something the Knights take for granted. Mayberry transferred to Layton Christian Academy to improve his academics before last season, and he said many of his former teammates were skeptical of the numbers he put up with the Eagles last season, given it was against Class 1A competition.
Now back at Northridge for his senior year, it didn't take long for Mayberry to make the skeptics believers. But that doesn't mean the process didn't take a toll on him.
"When I first left, a lot of people didn't talk to me," Mayberry said. "Coming back and everybody having a grudge about me leaving, even though it was for reasons that benefit me, it was kind of hard. But I had to push through it, and it made me stronger."