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Knights look to close out season with a two-game winning streak

Posted: October 27, 2011 4:25 p.m.
Updated: October 28, 2011 5:00 a.m.

For the first Monday since the seventh game of the 2010 season, the Monday-after-the game film session at North Central was more relaxed, with smiles filling the film room.

Winning will do that to you.

The Knights broke an eight-game skid a week ago by thumping McBee, 44-19. The victory was the first for Louis Clyburn and company since they closed the 2010 campaign with a 32-15 win over C.A. Johnson. And, for the second time in as many seasons, NC has the chance to win its last game. The team standing in the way is none other than C.A. Johnson.

Tonight, NC heads to Bolden Stadium in Columbia to not only close its 2011 season, but end its run as a class A entry. Next year, the Knights move into the class AA ranks for the second time in eight seasons. This evening, though, they have the opportunity to play the role of spoilers by ending the Yellow Jackets’ playoff hopes and ruining Homecoming and senior night in the process.

"You name it, they’ve got it going on. They’re going to be excited," Clyburn said of the special events set for tonight in Columbia. "I told our kids that this isn’t going to be one of those deals where we just show up and expect a victory. We’re going to have to work for it.

"Our kids are going to have to be sharp and our coaches are going to have to keep our kids focused. There are going to be some distractions over there. But we certainly need to anticipate being successful. That’s a key for us and something we didn’t have here in the past where we’ve gone into a game and didn’t anticipate success. At the same time, you had better anticipate adversity."

Clyburn said that after having been on the receiving end of several homecoming and senior night losses, both home and on the road, tonight would be a good time for the Knights to kill two birds with one stone. He told his team as much during the week.

"It’s time for us to take the attitude that we’re going to go to somebody else’s homecoming and beat them," he said. "We’ve shown up to a few homecomings the past two or three years and have taken our licks. Now, we are to the point where we’re going into a game and our objective is to win.

"Our kids just need to stay focused, our coaches need to keep our guys focused and we need to play football for four quarters and do everything that we can on every play. If you’ve done your job for four quarters, the scoreboard usually takes care of itself if you’ve done your job and have executed like you have practiced."

One of the first things the Knights have to make sure of is that they can rebound from a big play from the Hornets because, as Clyburn said, one or more are going to come. In charting one particular C.A. Johnson game, Clyburn said the Hornets may have only run the football a handful --- or, less --- of times.

The hosts have big-play potential at wide receiver, quarterback and in the backfield and are no strangers to big plays on offense.

"With as many athletes as they have, they are going to break a big play," Clyburn said. "Even on film against Chesterfield, they were making big plays where their receivers were going up and over people to make catches. We just need to play good, sound defense and also anticipate that we’re going to have some success, too."

What NC junior quarterback Grayson King, tailback Tavarus Porter and the rest of the Knights’ offense will see tonight is something unlike any other defense they have gone up against. There is selling out on defense, which some teams do, and then, there is the strategy which C.A. Johnson employed last season in Boonetown and what Clyburn anticipates seeing again this time around.

"Last year, they came against us with what I call a ‘punt rush’ defense where they blitzed all 11 players to try and stop Tavarus Porter," Clyburn said. "And, they did a good job containing him in the first half. We had to hit our ‘hot’ throws and blitz-beaters in the passing game to loosen them up on defense."

With three victories --- including one via forfeit --- and one in Region 3-A play, Clyburn said the Hornets will come into this contest confident and eager to earn a trip to the post-season. The NC boss said that, in some ways, these two programs are a bit of a reflection of each other.

"C.A. Johnson is well-coached. They have good athletes and they are trying to build a tradition over there," he said. "We’re working in the same direction as they are. They’re a better football team this year than they were last year."

The same can also be said of North Central which is trying to get its first two-game win streak in the Clyburn era. The one thing which he and his staff have concerned themselves with this week are their players being satisfied with the one-sided victory over McBee a week ago.

"We don’t want to have a letdown after having a victory on senior night at our home stadium," Clyburn said. "We told our kids to anticipate success, but also know how to handle success. That was important for us this week in practice. We were coming off a victory, but our objective is to win the next game.

"I want them to feel good about themselves and certainly, we’re not going to take a victory for granted at North Central, but as some point, you have to put last week to bed and go back to work for the next game. I think our kids have done a good job with that. We’ve had a good week of practice.

"We want to go undefeated these last two games. We want to end on a high note. We want to get to where we’re having winning seasons, playing for region championships and things like that."

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