Prep football: Behind a new Kusuda, Northridge is winning
Before his first game as Northridge's starting quarterback, Nate Kusuda had to endure the teasing of his oldest brother, Jeff.
"No pressure, but just remember that my first pass was a touchdown," he would say.
Nate's first two passes against Logan were strikes to his running backs: a 19-yard touchdown pass to David Adams, followed by a 52-yard bomb to Dallin Isaacson. After a 41-27 win, the junior had a bit of a strut to his walk.
"I told my brother, 'No big deal, but my first two passes were touchdowns,' " Nate Kusuda says. "He didn't like that much."
The back-and-forth with his siblings is all in fun just about everyone in the Northridge program has been relieved and even exhilarated by the team's quick start. It has rested in an inexperienced defense that has made red-zone stops, as well as an undersized line that has somehow played bigger than it is.
But it's also about Kusuda, who has been groomed to play quarterback at Northridge for years. Two of his older brothers were quarterbacks for a Northridge state title run: Jeff in 2000 and Brian in 2002. Together, they've helped coach Nate through Little League, teaching him the foundation of what the Knights' offense is now.
That polish has shone through early: In two games, the youngest Kusuda has thrown for 437 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions.
"Yeah, basically since seventh grade, he's been learning this offense," Adams says. "He stays calm under pressure and always looks really poised. He'd play the same way if we were down or up by 30."
It's a good sign that Kusuda is handling expectations well early. He has a high calling.
Northridge has shaped up in the past few years under coach Erik Thompson, reaching the 5A quarterfinals in each of the past two seasons. But with so little returning experience, Thompson wasn't sure what to expect.
Before going up to face defending 4A champion Logan, Thompson was getting ready for a hard night.
"I had no idea what kind of team we had I was thinking it could be ugly," he says. "Obviously it went well for us. We looked at the film, and we're still making tons of mistakes. But I'd say this group has made up for it with execution and competitive fight."
It's hard to give credit to any one player for the Knights' 2-0 start. It has taken an impressive performance from the offensive line, which has at least three starters under 200 pounds. Kusuda says the line's speed has proven to its benefit so far, and Thompson credits position coach Mike Martini for the success.
There's also some credit to be given to the defense, which shut out Olympus last week. Adams, who plays corner on defense, estimates the unit also had three red-zone stands against the Grizzlies in Week One.
The early rigidness by Northridge's defense has paid dividends going the other direction.
"Our defense has really helped us get good field position, and our offense is capitalizing on that," receiver and free safety Zach Hayes says. "We have a lot of two-way starters, so we kind of pat each other on the back after making a stop and say, 'All right, let's take advantage.' "
The Knights say the tension and jitters went away after that first touchdown pass, a sign that all would be well this year.
But while Northridge is cruising, the team knows the danger is looking too far ahead. Region 1 is never forgiving for a team that is overconfident.
Luckily, Kusuda has a few brothers who can remind him about that.
"It's definitely nice to have someone to talk to about it," he says. "We just have to remember to keep practicing and keep working. My brothers have always said I would be better than them, and now I just have to prove it."
Twitter: @kylegoon Junior quarterback continues Northridge legacy
Nate Kusuda, the Knights' starting quarterback, is now 2-0 with 437 yards and two touchdowns.
Jeff Kusuda played quarterback as a junior and senior, winning a state title in 2000.
Brian Kusuda led Northridge to a state title in 2002 as the Knights' starting passer.