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Streaks on the line tonight in Kershaw

NC eyes fourth straight win against surging Vols

Posted: September 20, 2012 2:56 p.m.
Updated: September 21, 2012 5:00 a.m.

It’s easy to get up for a game against your arch-rival; any team can do that for the span of a week.
What North Central head coach Louis Clyburn wants out of his team is to take the same approach in every other game as they take when it comes time to get ready for Andrew Jackson.
Tonight, the Knights will pack up the bus with players, coaches and a three-game win streak in making the short trip to Kershaw to meet David Moore’s Volunteers. After an 0-2 start to the season, AJ has reeled off two straight victories to even its mark at 2-2.
Clyburn said that while his team’s practices have been more spirited this week, he told his squad that every week should be like this one.
“It’s certainly a rivalry game. But you prepare each week to win,” Clyburn said. “We have to get to the point where the mentality is to play each game, each week, individually and try to go 1-0, one week at a time.
“Our kids are going to get fired up this week because, in their minds, this is their rivalry. They know all those (AJ) guys, they shop at the same places and they live down the road from them. Naturally, it’s hard not for this to be a big game, in those terms.”
Since falling to Cardinal Newman in week zero, the Knights have steamrolled Whitmire, Camden Military Academy and McBee in successive weeks. Clyburn said the loss to the Cards was a wake-up call for his team which has prepared better each time out while the string of wins have given the Knights a well-deserved shot of confidence.
Clyburn said his players need to stay focused on the next game and treat it the same, regardless of the opponent and/or circumstances.
“If this week is the Super Bowl, then last week had to be a Super Bowl, too. That’s what we talked about in practice on Monday,” said the fourth-year NC boss who was the head coach at AJ in 2008.
“Every single week, you have to prepare like it’s the Super Bowl. There can’t be one week where you prepare better than the other. Mentally, you go in saying, ‘I’d like to beat these guys.’ But you prepare every single week to win every week.
“We’re going to prepare to beat AJ just like we’re going to prepare to beat Fairfield Central, Columbia and Keenan and the rest of the teams on our schedule.”
The Volunteers have been forced to switch oars in midstream this season. When an early season injury sidelined tailback Javaris Clyburn, AJ turned to the left arm of quarterback Kolby Whitley. Fortunately, the sophomore has a reliable target in 6-foot-4 inch junior wide out Quadarius Fair.
In last week’s 35-15 win over Great Falls, Whitley found Fair eight times for 142 yards and three touchdowns while also running in a pair on his own. On the night, Whitley was 14-of-21 for 246 yards passing while also rushing 13 times for 43 yards.
The loss of their chief running threat opened a new world of potential for the AJ offense.
“They had a pretty good running back last year, Javaris Clyburn, who got hurt early in the season and it made them go to a spread or empty (backfield) passing attack,” said Clyburn. “Their quarterback does a really good job of getting rid of the football in the short passing game. They’ve been very effective, especially the last two games.”
While the Vols seem to have hitched their offensive wagon to the air game, the Knights look to keep with their balanced offense. Junior running back Tristan McCathern is coming off a four-touchdown first half in last week’s 52-32 win over McBee, in what was his third game as a starting tailback. When the Knights go up top, they have the strong arm of senior quarterback Grayson King who threw and caught a touchdown pass a week ago to and from wide out Anthony Spinelli.
Clyburn said he expects the AJ defense to test his team early and often thanks to a strong defensive line and linebacking corps. He feels the first objective for the Volunteers will be to try and get to McCathern before he can get going.
“Defensively,” said the NC boss, “I think they will try and come after us to try and test our protections and see what we can do. They’ll focus on trying to stop our run and our offensive line is going to have to answer the challenge.
“Our receivers and quarterback need to be on time with our throws and if we have to throw ‘hot’, we have to be ready to throw the football and be ready to make the catch to make them pay if they do blitz us.”
The Volunteers have won each of the past three meetings with the Knights and Clyburn said that has not been a fluke. “AJ is going to have a good plan on offense and a good plan on defense because they have great coaches,” he said.
In each of the past three seasons, the Vols were comfortably in front of NC when it got to the fourth quarter. But this Knights’ team is different than their predecessors. They are playing with confidence and Clyburn is preparing his team for this to be a 48-minute game, something his own team has not had to worry about up to this juncture of the season.
“Our team has got to prepare for this to be a game in the fourth quarter,” Clyburn said. “We need to understand that we have to fight, scratch and claw in the fourth quarter to win a football game.”
Having faced three winless teams over the past three weeks, NC faces a Volunteer unit which is nearly as hot as the Knights. Clyburn said that makes this backyard battle even the more interesting.
“They’re on a little bit of a roll. They hit a couple of speed bumps early in the season, but they’re on a roll,” he said of the Volunteers. “It should be a challenge for us.”

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