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Knights hoping to get back to winning ways against Keenan

Posted: September 27, 2012 12:54 p.m.
Updated: September 28, 2012 5:00 a.m.

There is one statistic which jumps out at you when looking into the Keenan football team.
In 2012, the Raiders are 1-2 on the road and 2-0 at home. When apprised of that fact, North Central head coach Louis Clyburn, whose team hosts Keenan in tonight’s Region 3-AA opener, just laughed.
“If you’re one of those guys out in Vegas who make the odds, I guess those guys look at all those different things, it gives us the advantage. That’s the good news,” Clyburn said. “The bad news is that you still have to go out there on a 100-yard field and whip your opponent. You can’t just snap your fingers and those things will happen.”
For the first time in four weeks, the Knights will enter a game coming off a loss. Last Friday, Andrew Jackson handed NC a 42-6 setback which, Clyburn said, his team had to flush from their collective memory bank when returning to the field for the start of practice on Monday.
The Knights had little time to feel sorry for themselves in preparing for a Raider squad which had a bye last week after a 65-0 loss to 4A York the previous week. Keenan has been a team which, at times, has been hard to figure while at others, can look downright scary. In the third game of the season, KHS was just able to slide past winless C.A. Johnson, 13-6. A week later came a 36-21 victory over Calhoun County.
“You watch them play one week against C.A. Johnson and they don’t look so good,” Clyburn said. “Then, against Calhoun County, which has a lot of athletes, Keenan looked real sharp.
“They’re a hard team to judge. They’ve been a little like us in that they’ve had some Jekyll and Hyde games. If you look at us against Cardinal Newman and then, against McBee, it’s two different teams; it’s kind of like what we’re facing in Keenan. They have a lot of good athletes and a lot of speed, but they’ve made some mistakes at times, like we did against Cardinal Newman.”
Senior quarterback Titus Hopkins directs an offense which looks to get senior tailback Daetron Hyman into space. Last season, Hyman rushed for 997 yards. He is, again, the bell cow for the Raiders’ ground game.
“They throw the ball, do a little play action and sprint out,” Clyburn said after having watch KHS on film. “They have a very athletic quarterback. Their main focus over the past few weeks has been to try and get a running game going.”
What has derailed the Raiders in their two losses, as well as against C.A. Johnson, were turnovers. Clyburn said he hopes his defense and special teams can made the guests pay for any mistakes they have tonight in Boonetown.
“On offense, they have made some mistakes,” he said. “What we have to do is to try and force them to make mistakes and then, take advantage of them whether it be on special teams or on offense and, when that happens, get great field position and take advantage of it.”
Despite losing linebacker Preston Perkins, who led the team in tackles the past two seasons, with a torn ACL, the Raiders hang their hat on defense. Clyburn said he expects the guests to line up in the 4-3 and play cover two in the secondary. “They have a lot of athletes over there,” Clyburn said of the KHS defense. “It’s a very safe type of defense. They don’t do a whole lot of blitzing, but they will bring guys off the edge. They can get pressure with their front four guys.”
What has helped the NC staff this week is that in watching films of the Keenan defense, most of the offenses the Raiders have faced operate out of the spread. The one video which Clyburn said did plenty of good was a 48-14 loss to Lakewood. The AAA Gators run a similar offense to North Central.
“What was good about Lakewood is that they had a lot of success against Keenan,” he said.
For all of what Keenan can, can’t and will and won’t do, Clyburn said the outcome of this game will depend on what his players do on both sides of the football.
 “We have to do one thing,” he said. “We have to focus on and control what we do, execute the game plan, execute our offense and execute our defense and the rest will take care of themselves. We’ve been telling our guys all week that we can’t worry about what Keenan is going to do. We can focus on and control what we can do.”
Clyburn said his team is excited about and eager to open the region season tonight. He also knows that a dangerous opponent is coming into town with big-play potential on both sides of the football. The fourth-year NC boss said that tonight marks the start of the Knights’ second season with the third to come in the state playoffs. What he wants his players to do is to try and improve on a solid first five games of the year.
“We were successful this first five-game season, but we have to put all that behind us,” Clyburn said of his team’s 3-2 finish in non-league play. “Now, what we have to do is to go out and make this next five-game season successful.”

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