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NC overwhelms Spartans, 49-6

Posted: September 8, 2012 1:00 p.m.
Updated: September 10, 2012 5:00 a.m.

Last Wednesday, North Central head football coach Louis Clyburn was not satisfied with the effort his team was giving in practice. So, a halfway into things, he blew the whistle and the Knights started all over again, without questioning why.
Two nights later, the Knights did not need a “do over” as the hosts handed neighboring Camden Military Academy a 49-6 loss in Boonetown for their second win in a row after opening the season with a loss to Cardinal Newman.
After having outscored their last two opponents by a combined 97-6 count, that opening day defeat seems like a lifetime ago for Clyburn and company, which will take a load of confidence into Friday’s game at winless McBee.
“I told them that this is a delicate balance,” Clyburn said of his team’s newfound confidence. “Certainly, they need to be confident and they need to be proud of themselves, but they need to understand what got them here; and that has been hard work and fighting, scratching and not accepting anything less than that.
“Every single week, it’s going to be a battle and they have to fight for their lives every week. It’s going to be one game at a time for us.”
Facing an undermanned Spartan (0-2) squad, NC scored the first 42 points of the night --- including 36 in the opening half --- before CMA’s Ange Gadji returned a kick for an 84-yard score with a little more than four minutes left in the third quarter.
CMA head coach Will Rice was concerned about the Knights’ size along both lines and the speed which the hosts possessed coming into this first meeting between the two schools on the gridiron. After the hosts rolled up 392 yards in offense while allowing the Spartans 62 yards on the night, Rice’s opinion of NC was stronger than ever.
“They big-played us and they beat us up front,” Rice said. “The film lies sometimes. They’re really big and they’re really physical up front. That killed us all night long.
“They’re a good football team; they’re going to win a lot of football games this year. I’m very impressed with them. Their coaches do a good job.”
Having seen how well CMA defended an athletic New Covenant Christian squad six days earlier, Clyburn said the game plan to start things was to loosen the guests up with the pass. Before the Knights could do that, their defense needed to concern themselves with trying to corral the 5-foo-8 Gadji, a speedster from Baltimore by way of the Ivory Coast.
On the Spartans’ first play from scrimmage, Gadji took a handoff from quarter back Ricky Thornley and headed to his left, where he saw a host of Knights. Gadji quickly reversed field and went against the grain and sprinted 30 yards to the NC 31 on an opening drive which stalled at the Knights’ 27 when the hosts’ defense held Gadji to a gain of one on fourth and six.
Gadji finished the night with 51 yards on 14 carries against a defense designed to stop him before he could get going.
“Defensively, we knew we had to tackle (Gadji),” Clyburn said. “You saw it on the first play; we had him in the backfield and he goes for about 40 (yards.) Our objective was to squeeze the backfield and not give them a lot of space back there. We wanted to send guys through the gaps, send guys off the edges and changes it back and forth and get into a rhythm of keeping them off-balance and not giving (Gadji) a running head start because when he got a head start, he was something else. We knew we had to contain that.
“I told our guys they had to go as hard as we could on every play because if we didn’t, he was going to break one. We knew their game plan was going to give it to him a bunch early.”
Rice made no bones about Gadji being the focal point of the visitors’ offensive game plan.
“They were keying on him all night long,” he said. “We wanted to get Gadji going and try to get him to the corner. They did a good job of stopping him. “We just have to get him into space and we’ll be fine.”
NC found a tailback of its own last week in moving junior Tristan McCathern from backup quarterback to running back. But it would be the arm of senior quarterback Grayson King which got the hosts on the scoreboard first after taking over following the game-opening defensive stand.
After a pair of McCathern runs netted 11 yards, King found Austin Furman over the middle for 10 yards at the NC 45. One play later, King dropped back and found a wide-open Anthony Spinelli, who made the grab and turned it into a 55-yard scoring play with 8:08 showing on the first quarter. The PAT kick failed, keeping it a 6-0 game.
The Knights would cash in after the defense forced four consecutive three and outs.
The first of those gave the ball to the hosts at their own 36. On third and 12 from the 46, King hit Furman for 16 yards to the CMA 38. The same pair hooked up again on the next play for a 21-yard pass. An 11-yard McCathern run to the one set up a Reggie Outten plunge which was followed by McCathern’s two-point run and a 14-0 lead with 3:03 showing on the first quarter clock.
NC needed to travel just 52 yards after the second Spartan punt of the game. This time, McCathern went for runs of nine and six yards to the CMA 37 as the first quarter ended. A 15-yard King-to-Spinelli pass led to a second and 13 from the 27. King then lofted a pretty fade pass to Furman, who made a leaping grab in the deep left corner of the end zone. McCathern again went in for the two-point conversion and with 10:56 left before half the hosts’ lead stood at 22-0.
The second touchdown pass was King’s fourth completion in his first five attempts on the night for 129 yards. He would finish the game clicking on six of his eight attempts for 147 yards before watching the second half from the sidelines due to the large lead.
“The team they played last week was fast,” Clyburn said, referring to New Covenant Christian. “They were a fast, physical football team and Camden Military went toe-to-toe with them and tackled their athletes. That was a concern for us as to would we be able to run the football effectively.
“We knew we were going to have to loosen them up with the pass early because they teach tackling well; heck, (CMA assistant coach) Jeff Jordan taught me how to tackle (at Camden High) so you know that they know how to tackle over there.”
NC would start its fourth scoring march from its own 37 and again, King went up top, finding tight end J.P. Faulkenberry over the middle with an 18-yard pass to the CMA 45. It was all on the ground after that as McCathern went for 15 yards to the 30. Outten then bulled his way for 13 before McCathern followed a six-yard carry. Clarence Williams then took a speed sweep in from 11 yards out to cap a crisp, five-play series. Warren Moseley’s PAT kick was true and with 8:05 left in the half, the Spartans padded their cushion to 29-0.
Rice said his small defense was no match for NC’s large and physical front. “Their offensive line manhandled us. That was a big key to the game,” he said.
The Spartans would tack on one more score before intermission, taking advantage of a two-yard CMA punt downed at the guests’ 17. A 16-yard McCathern carry led to his one-yard plunge and a 36-0 lead with 1:58 left before halftime.
In a second 24 minutes played with a running clock, Clyburn emptied his bench and sent Hunter Wyant under center. The sophomore would lead the Knights on a half-opening 10-play, 67-yard scoring drive in which he called his own number on three occasions in which he gained 27 yards. He also hit Mike Ostas for a gain of 13 to the CMA 33.
A 10-yard Wyant scamper set the ball at the three from which point sophomore William Jenkins went over for the score to make it 42-0 with 6:36 left in the third.
After not kicking to Gadji in the first half, the Knights decided to kick deep after their sixth touchdown. Gadji picked up the rolling ball at his own 16 and took up in front of the CMA bench for an 84-yard touchdown, giving the Spartans their first points of the season.
NC responded with a 13-play, 57-yard march into the end zone with a series featuring freshman tailback Antonio Parks, who went for 51 yards on eight carries in the march which he capped with a two-yard drive over right tackle with six minutes left.
The Spartans picked up their first first down since the game-opening series when Gadji broke loose for 32 yards to the NC 32. A pair of penalties set the ball at the two, but Gadji was taken down at the one on the final snap of the shortened second half.
After not giving up a touchdown for a second straight week, Clyburn could not say enough about his defense.
“We’ve been teaching tackling as hard as we can for three years,” he said. “What makes this team different is these guys are starting to tackle with their heart. They’re playing with passion and they’re playing faster; it’s unacceptable for them not to make the tackle. That coupled with all the technique we’ve been teaching them is where you get good defense.
“The challenge this week was to stop 32 (Gadji) and the defense rose to the occasion and did it. I couldn’t be more proud of our defense and Coach Eck (NC defensive coordinator Guy Eckenroth.) They had it dialed in and we had guys chasing down plays from behind.”
Despite the loss, Rice, too, said he was proud of his young men for their effort in a tough situation.
“We didn’t quit. We battled,” he said. “North Central has a very good football team. I told our guys to keep battling because this is going to help us down the road.”
With two straight lopsided wins, Clyburn put the brakes on any talk that his team has reached the point to where it needs to be.
“We haven’t all of a sudden arrived; by no means or by no stretch have we arrived,” he said. “We still have a tough road to hoe. It’s one week at a time.”

Game notes: Led by McCathern rushing for 73 yards on 10 carries, NC ran for 223 yards on 37 hauls. Parks was next with 51 on eight runs … Furman caught four King passes for 74 yards while Spinelli’s long grab went for a 55-yard score … Gadji was responsible for all but 11 of CMA’s yards as he had 51 yards on 14 attempts. He also left the game, briefly, with an injury in the third quarter … CMA quarterback Ricky Thornley was injured in the second half when his helmet came off and he took a shot to the head … NC now has had two (on-field) win streaks in each of the past two seasons. The 2011 campaign ended with three in a row after a loss to Lewisville turned into a win when the Lions inadvertently used an ineligible player and informed the High School League of the mistake. That win gives NC five victories in their past six games.

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