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Raiders crash NC's party

Posted: September 29, 2012 2:35 p.m.
Updated: October 1, 2012 5:00 a.m.

Obviously, Keenan is not superstitious.
Scoring 13 points in each of the first three quarters, the visiting Raiders spoiled North Central’s return to the AA ranks with a 39-0 win Friday night at Knights Stadium.
The game was the Region 3-AA opener for both sides who came into the contest with identical 3-2 marks in the non-conference portion of their schedules.
The loss was the second in a row for Louis Clyburn’s charges, which reeled off three consecutive victories after having lost their season opener. The NC boss said Keenan could not have picked a worse time to put an end to its ball-control problems.
“They had been averaging about five turnovers a game coming in,” Clyburn said of the Raider offense. “Against us, they had two.”
For its part, NC lost a pair of fumbles and had a tipped pass result in an interception. Two of the three turnovers proved most costly than the other.
Trailing, 19-0, in the second quarter, the Knights were at the one-yard line after Grayson King was tackled before getting into the end zone on the final play of the first quarter. On the next play, a fumble on what looked to have been when an NC back had crossed the goal line was recovered by the hosts. The interception also came in the red zone, which the hosts visited on four occasions, only to be rebuffed by a stingy Keenan defense.
“Obviously,” Clyburn said of that statistic, “we have to work on our red zone offense in practice. We should have only been down 19-14 going in at halftime.”
The interception came near the end of the second quarter when the hosts were trying to close to within 26-7.
Clyburn said Keenan’s speed and aggressive on defense helped turn this game in the visitors’ favor.
“Their defense was tough. They kept blitzing. We used the speed option to help in slowing them down and Grayson did a great job of throwing the ball away and avoiding sacks when they blitzed,” he said. “They also wanted to take away our inside running game, which they did. So, we had to try and go outside and run a lot of speed sweeps. We had to take some gambles in this game against their defense.
“Keenan was making a lot of adjustments on defense and we were making a lot of adjustments to what they were doing. You can tell that they did a good job of preparing for us.”
The Knights rushed for 111 yards and King threw for 110. The Raider defense made things tough on NC tailback Tristan McCathern who was held to 38 yards on 16 carries. NC did not have a run of more than nine yards.
In the air, King found tight end J.P. Faulkenberry three times for 47 yards while wide receiver Anthony Spinelli had three grabs for 34 yards.
Both Spinelli and fellow wide out/tailback Clarence Williams looked to have big-gainers on middle screen passes, only to have each player tripped up on shoestring tackles by the last line of the Raiders’ defense.
Special teams also played a key role in this game as KHS used a 60-yard punt return to set up one first half touchdown and then, had a one-yard field to navigate, also in the first half, as the result of an NC punt.
The Raiders were also efficient on offense and only punted once on a night in which they had 12 first downs to NC’s 15.
Clyburn said KHS, which had 352 yards in total offense, used the big play to deflate the Knights, whose defense was put in several tough positions.
“Our defense played well at times, but they were put in tough situations a few times,” Clyburn said. “We had a hard time containing their speed on the sweeps and with their cutback runs. They were able to convert on a lot of third-and-five and third-and-six situations the entire game.
“They also hit us with a couple slant passes which went for about 20 yards each. That hurt us.”
On the positive side, Clyburn said King made good decisions on the zone read while for the second week in a row, NC was only flagged on two occasions. “We’re playing pretty clean football,” he said. “Now, we have to eliminate turnovers and become smarter with the ball.
“I thought that Faulkenberry and Spinelli did a good job catching the ball.”
In the end, Clyburn tipped his hat to the Raiders while saying his team would go back to work in practice to try and get back on the winning track this Friday night in Pelion. The Panthers won their region opener against Eau Claire on Friday.
“It will be interesting to see what Keenan does the rest of the season,” he said. “Offensively, defensively and special teams, this was the best game that they’ve played all year.”

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