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Vols close with a 21-0 run to overtake North Central, 35-14

Posted: November 3, 2012 12:06 p.m.
Updated: November 5, 2012 5:00 a.m.

NC DEFENSIVE BACK Sean Taylor jumps on the back of AJ quarterback Kolby Whitley to make this tackle in the second half of Friday’s AA state playoff game.

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It took North Central more than 38 minutes to get back to a stalemate, tying Friday’s AA Upper State Division II playoff opener with visiting Andrew Jackson at 14-all.
All it took for the Volunteers’ Quadarius Fair to end the good feelings in Boonetown were a scant 21 seconds.
Fair, AJ’s 6-foot-4 junior wide out, answered a game-tying 18-yard interception return for a touchdown by NC’s Darius Brown by returning the ensuing kickoff for a 78-yard touchdown. That triggered a late-game 21-0 run by the Vols, who advanced into Friday’s second round at Chesnee with a 35-14 victory over the host Knights.
The loss capped a 5-6 campaign for Louis Clyburn’s troops, which fell to rival AJ, 42-6, six week ago in Kershaw. Just as he did that night, Fair played a key role in this contest as, in addition to his game-breaking kick return, he also hauled in six Kolby Whitley passes for 129 yards, including scoring tosses of 52 and 16 yards.
But it would be Fair’s special teams score which turned the tide in the Vols’ favor after NC scored 14 points, in a span of 16 seconds, to knot things at 14-14 with just less than 10 minutes remaining in the contest.
“We’ve been keeping it pinned on the sideline,” Clyburn said of the philosophy of his kickoff team. “We just hung that one up there to the middle, where we didn’t want to kick it, because (Fair’s) dangerous with the ball in his hands.
“We hung it out there and then there were a couple missed tackles and a couple good blocks by their return team. I guess they didn’t hold as much as we did because they called back a touchdown pass when we were holding. They seemed to not be holding when they were blocking. I thought they did a great job of blocking without holding.”
NC held the guests on downs at the Knights’ 17 after AJ recovered a muffed squib kick following Fair’s score. Taking over from there, tailback William Jenkins went for four yards on second and 10 before a two-yard pass from quarterback Grayson King to Anthony Spinelli set up a fourth and fourth from the 23 with less than six and a half minutes left in the game.
 Rather than punt, the Knights went for the first down. A dropped pass gave the ball back to the Vols, who four plays later on fourth and seven from the 20, used a scoring pass from Whitley to Gavin Clyburn, who made the catch on the slant route at the 10, went through a tackle and into the end zone for the touchdown and a 28-14 AJ lead with 4:56 remaining in the contest.
Clyburn said the call his offense made on fourth down was a pass play which had been good to the Knights all year. He did question, however, if the AJ defender did not arrive a bit early on the pass to Austin Furman.
“We decided that that had been a pretty good combination for us all year. We were riding it and we had to take a chance; it was there,” Clyburn said. “Again, their defender was right there on us. I thought he was lifting (Furman) off the ground as he was catching it. There again, they do a better job of covering the receivers, I guess, a little tighter. I thought it might have been a pass interference call. I guess I was wrong there, too.”
NC had what could kindly be referred to as a miserable offensive first half. The hosts managed just 66 yards in offense on 30 snaps which included a pair of lost fumbles, not to mention a pass interference call which negated a Knights’ interception.
This game started with AJ recovering a squib kick at the NC 38 on the opening kickoff. On the Vols’ first play, NC’s Clarence Williams picked off a tipped Whitley pass at his own 10, returning it to the AJ 48.
The Knights got going quickly on their first drive with King finding Spinelli on a bubble screen for 17 yards to the 31. Jenkins, who ran for 94 yards on 30 carries, got the call four consecutive times with the fourth of those going for a yard on fourth and one from the 22. On the next play, King found Furman for the 21-yard scoring toss, only for a holding call to bring the play back. A snap later, NC lost a fumble and its momentum.
AJ was bent on winning this game through the air and would use the passing game to set up its first score on a drive which opened from the Vols’ 25 in the closing minute of the first quarter. The key play in the march was a juggling catch for 36 yards to the NC 37 made by Gavin Clyburn. One play after a 10-yard Whitley to Fair pass play, Whitley spotted Corley Faulkenberry with a 26-yard pass to the one. Two plays later, Tray King came around on a speed sweep for the two-yard scoring run and a 7-0 lead following the first of five Luke Kennington PAT kicks, this one at the 11:02 mark of the second quarter.
In a sloppy first half, both sides would see lost fumbles end their next possessions. It was not until Whitley found a streaking Fair on a fly pattern for a 52-yard scoring play, with 4:19 left before intermission, that what was turning into a defensive struggle, loosened up.
 “I thought our defense played great; it was the best we’ve played all year. We shut them down and made big plays,” Clyburn said of a unit which picked off three passes while recovering a fumble on the night.
With his team’s offense stuck in neutral, Clyburn and his assistants went to work during the halftime break.
“We wanted to loosen them up on the outside so, we made some blocking adjustments and they worked,” he said as to what led to a 119-yard second half for the NC offense. “They were bringing some edge pressure and we adjustment some of our screen plays, which worked for us. We also picked some different spots to run the ball and it was effective.”
It was the NC defense which came up big to start the second 24 minutes with Brown picking off a Whitley pass in the end zone to put an end to a half-opening scoring threat.
NC then got going on offense with King finding tight end J.P. Faulkenberry for 25 yards to the NC 45 on first down. A 20-yard King to Mike Ostas strike landed the ball at the AJ 31. Jenkins then did the bulk of the work with his 13-yard burst to the four giving the hosts a first and goal.
A two-yard Jenkins carry set the ball at the two. Then, things got ugly as AJ was called for being offsides before NC was whistled for an illegal procedure on the next play, setting up a second and goal from the six. Jenkins went for three yards on that play before a King pass to a diving Reggie Outten was just out of the tight end’s reach. On fourth and goal, Jenkins was stacked up inside the one as NC’s sudden burst of momentum dissipated.
 “Give them credit, their goal line defense is pretty tough,” Clyburn said. “But the sloppiness … they lined up offsides, then we jump … it went back and forth and it just gets you out of your rhythm. We couldn’t get in that rhythm and couldn’t get the ball moving. We started out great and had a couple penalties that brought it back.
“We had a play called that was a touchdown for sure; then they got a penalty, we got a penalty and then, you second-guess yourself and you change it. It was one of those things. I hate it.”
After struggling to cash in on a drive and having another march end with an interception in the end zone, NC turned to its special teams to make something good happen and their punt return unit did just that. Going after a Kennington punt, Brown broke through the line and blocked the punt which was recovered by Outten at the AJ three. It took Jenkins one play to get into the end zone and with 10:14 left in the game, NC was on the board, trailing 14-6 after the two-point pass play failed.
Brown, who had a big night already with a pick and a blocked punt, added another feather to his cap when on the first play from scrimmage, he jumped an AJ pass route, intercepting the ball at the 18 and going in untouched for the score with 9:58 left. King then zipped a pass to Furman for the two-point conversion which tied the game, while sending the home fans into a frenzy which lasted until Fair’s kick return seconds later.
AJ would close the scoring with a late-game 50-yard drive, capped by a 16-yard scoring pass from Whitley to Fair on fourth and three with 2:22 left in the game and NC’s season.
Clyburn said this was not one of his offense’s better nights. But he was proud of the way his team battled back from a 14-0 deficit to knot this one in the fourth quarter. In talking to his team following the setback, Clyburn got emotional when he got to the point where he addressed the Knights’ 14 seniors.
“I hate it,” he said with his voice trailing off. “I hate it for those seniors, those 14 seniors.”

Knight Lights: Both teams ran 61 offensive plays with NC going for 185 yards on their snaps while AJ had 336 yards in offense with Whitley, who was coming off a knee injury, throwing for 227 yards on a 15-for-33 night with three picks and three touchdown passes … King was 12 for 24 on his aerials for 77 yards … NC had 37 carries for 108 yards … Furman had six catches for 30 yards … Each team had just one carry for more than 10 yards on a night in which the defenses came up big time and time again.


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