Layton • The smoke from the halftime fireworks hadn’t even cleared when Cole Dean looked like he was ready to spoil Northridge’s homecoming.
The Weber quarterback fired an 89-yard touchdown pass on third down to put the Warriors up two scores.
Northridge junior Ben Jackson, meanwhile, waited on the sideline for his turn.
The Knights have looked to air it out all season long, but when starting quarterback Nate Kusuda had his collarbone shattered on a screen pass last week against Syracuse, there were questions about how Jackson might perform.
All the junior did was throw for three touchdowns and run for another to lead his team to a 36-27 win over Weber on Thursday night.
"Ben is full of confidence," said Northridge coach Erik Thompson. "He believes in himself and the kids love him. He’s a lot different of a QB than Nate. We’ve got to tweak some things and find our identity a little bit, but I’ll go to battle with him any night."
Kusuda may be lost for the season, but the quarterback was still instrumental in the team’s preparation this week, helping his good friend Jackson get ready for the start.
"He could be an assistant coach in college right now," Thompson said of Kusuda. "He’s as smart as he comes. He’s been in Ben’s ear all week telling him he’s ready."
The Knights dedicated their performance Thursday to their injured teammate.
The game’s early goings looked a little shaky for Northridge (2-4).
Weber running back Austin Tesch followed his blockers down the right sideline as he took a 44-yard screen pass from Dean for the first half’s only touchdown.
On the other side of the ball, Tesch was in on the action, too. The senior recorded a sack, as the Warriors twice stopped Northridge on fourth down in the half.
With a minute left on the clock, Jackson completed four straight passes for 49 yards to move the Knights down to the Weber 31. Kicker Robert Crawford’s 48-yard field goal in the half’s dying seconds cut the lead to 7-3.
After calling the game conservatively early, "it kind of sparked us when we had to go to two minutes," Thompson said.
So even after Dean’s bomb to wide receiver Mike Baker to start the second, Jackson said he was not worried.
"I knew we would come back," he said. "Our team is great. We always keep fighting even when we’re down. We just never gave up."
Weber battled its way back into the game. A long pass off a trick play put the Warriors in scoring position, down 8. But Dean saw one of his passes tipped right into the hands of Dallas Moklebust, who returned the interception 85 yards for a score.
With time ticking away, the Warriors (4-2) tacked on another touchdown to bring the score closer. But by then, fireworks were already filing the sky over Northridge.
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