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For Austin Tate of Northridge and Henri Jussila of Layton Christian Academy, Friday nights spent on the football field look about the same, as the two play almost every single down for their teams on both sides of the ball. But the areas in which Tate and Jussila excel couldn't be more different.
Austin Tate, Northridge
It isn't uncommon in high school football for players to play on both sides of the ball, but not everyone does so quite as successfully as Austin Tate from Northridge.
Tate has more than 125 rushing yards and one touchdown on offense as a running back, but defense is where the junior shines, as he is the sixth-leading tackler in 5A, averaging eight and a half tackles per game as a linebacker.
"I think that might be one of the more difficult combinations, running back and linebacker," Northridge coach Erik Thompson said. "You get hit every single play. So you've got to be able to play with some pain and be physically tough-minded, and that fits Austin to a T."
Tate said that conditioning and hard physical practices made playing both sides of the ball relatively easy for him.
"You do get fatigued, but we do enough conditioning and we have practices that really push us so it doesn't take that much of a toll on me," he said. "I get little breaks because I don't play offense all the time so I can get some water and then I'm ready to go again."
With the more than 80 tackles Tate recorded as a sophomore and the 51 he has already earned this season, Tate is on track to be the all-time leading tackler from Northridge.
"I love defense because every play you can hit someone and you don't get in trouble for that," Tate said. "As long as you don't horse-collar or face-mask, you can hit freely and I love it."
Henri Jussila, Layton Christian
Henri Jussila has been playing football on American soil for only a few months now, but he has already shown he can be a threat. As a foreign exchange student at Layton Christian Academy, Jussila is the fourth-leading rushing scorer in the state with 10 touchdowns in five games.
"He is just a phenomenal kid," Layton Christian head coach Will Hawes said. "He's a hard worker and he doesn't back down from challenges, and in short, he's the guy."
Being "the guy" for Layton Christian means Jussila is leading the state in yards per game, with 164, and has scored 10 of the Eagles' 18 touchdowns this season, in spite of playing every single down and having racked up 29 tackles and two sacks to go with his touchdowns. Hawes knows that a lot of Jussila's ability is natural talent, but says that he has been a sponge since joining the Eagles.
"We didn't teach him everything, he came with a lot of skill, but he's bought into what we've been teaching him and he's gotten better each week," said. "Along with having a big phenomenal, hard-hitting O-line, he's bought into how we've told him to run and the structure of our scheme and it's paying off for him."
Jussila came from Finland in hopes of testing his talent against American players and seeing if he could have a shot at playing college ball in the U.S.
"He is a smart student and I think he's got a good shot at playing football here," Hawes said.