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Knights ready to start fresh at home

Posted: September 5, 2013 3:09 p.m.
Updated: September 6, 2013 5:00 a.m.

If there is a benefit to having an early bye week, it may be that football is still center stage and, regardless of the outcome of your first game, there is, virtually, an entire season left to be played.
Admitting that he would have preferred an open week a bit later than the Friday after a week zero game, North Central head coach Louis Clyburn said the early opening in his team’s schedule comes at a better time than one later in the season.
“Having an early bye week, you don’t have to worry so much about your focus,” he said. “Sometimes, I think, if you have a bye week later in the season, you do have to worry about your kids’ focus because the bye week could be on the back side of the season.
“Now, it’s just the football taste is still fresh. I think that is what helped our kids’ focus last week.”
The break allowed several Knights to heal up from week zero’s 12-6 overtime loss to Cardinal Newman and get back to being close to or, at, full strength when Whitmire arrives in Boonetown tonight.
The Wolverines come to town after having opened the season with a 22-6 loss to Great Falls a week ago. That final spread was in stark contrast to a season ago in which Whitmire lost to the Red Devils, 40-6, in week one before being trampled by North Central, 48-0, the following week.
Clyburn said Donald Addis’ troops have improved from a season ago and does not expect a one-sided outcome, as was the case a year ago.
“They did a great job against Great Falls,” Clyburn said after having taken in that game of a week ago. “You take away a couple of turnovers and they could have given Great Falls all they wanted. At halftime, it was a 14-6 ballgame. They’re a much-improved ballclub.
“They played with a lot of enthusiasm and effort against Great Falls.”
A year ago at Whitmire, the Knights got off to a relatively slow start given turnovers, missed assignments and an interception on a ball which should not have been thrown. Clyburn said his team needs to start fast tonight.
In addition to giving his players time to regroup, the week off, said the NC boss, gave the Knights a chance to restart their season while correcting some of the week zero mistakes.
“We challenged our kids to use good ball security, have good tackling technique, make sure we’re solid in the kicking game and try and play as mistake-free a football game as we can with the same effort and intensity as we did against Cardinal Newman,” he said. “If we do that, no matter who we play, we should fare well.”
Whitmire’s offense runs several sets which are similar to what the Knights’ defense saw two weeks ago, which has made preparing for this game a bit easier as NC was able to pick up where it left off in the pre-season.
 “Whitmire runs a two-back, shotgun with twins and a split offense, which Cardinal Newman got into, a bunch. They will also go four wide,” Clyburn said. “The similarities to the two teams certainly paid off as far as making corrections from the Cardinal Newman game are concerned.”
In addition, the Wolverines will run the quarterback with a series of sneaks and keeping the ball on the zone read. When they put the ball in the air, it will be a quick passing attack, much like what the Knights will do when they have the football.
“Their passing game is very similar to what we do,” Clyburn said. “It will be a very interesting ballgame in terms of what both teams are doing. It will all come down to which team makes the fewest amount of mistakes and who plays with the most effort.”
Defensively, the guests will employ a 4-4 look with a three-man secondary against an NC offense which will continue to use a pair of quarterbacks under center in juniors Hunter Wyant and Williams Jenkins, who split the duties in the opener. Clyburn said an extra week to practice between games should pay off for the first-time starters.
“They both did things very well in the game and they both did some bad things in the game,” Clyburn said of the pair. “The biggest step Hunter took was his managing the ballgame and not being risky with the football.
For the first time in his five seasons at the NC helm, Clyburn’s offense attempted less than 20 passes in a game when they put the ball in the air just 16 times --- completing seven for 80 yards --- against Cardinal Newman.
“With Jenkins (who doubles as a tailback when not at quarterback) in there,” he said, “we knew that we weren’t going to throw the ball a bunch. With our strength being our defense, we are going to be more conservative on offense and run the football more.”
While his team may have changed its offensive philosophy, Clyburn said he is looking for his players to not leave anything in the tank, now that the opening game jitters are gone.
 “We challenged our kids to not hold back in terms of effort and our style of play,” he said. “In terms of our focus and mental attitude going into a game, we need to attack this like we’re playing the Chicago Bears; that’s week in and week out.”

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