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Pelion outlasts Knights, 22-8

Posted: October 12, 2013 1:29 p.m.
Updated: October 14, 2013 5:00 a.m.

Heading into Friday’s homecoming game against visiting Pelion, North Central head coach Louis Clyburn said his Knights worked on cleaning up several areas which proved costly to his team in the previous week’s loss to Keenan.
Many of those issues were taken care of, but one which Clyburn and company have no control over came back to bite the Knights in a 22-8 loss to the Panthers in a game which was knotted at 8-8 with less than 10 minutes left to play in the contest.
NC is learning a hard lesson in the old adage of not being able to coach speed.
“Every team in our region has more speed and more athletes than we do,” Clyburn said after his team fell to 0-2 in Region 3-AA play. “We have to figure out ways to score points when we play a team which is faster than us. And, that’s going to be the case for the next three weeks. It will be a challenge, but the Knights are going to be up to the challenge.”
On this night, defense was not an issue as the Knights (3-4) forced the Panthers to temporarily scrap its Georgia Tech-style option attack as the visitors (4-3, 2-0 in 3-AA) went to a spread look, early in the game.
Clyburn said his defense rose to the occasion on Friday against a Pelion offense which averaged 39 points per game in its previous four outings.
“Our defense played an awesome game. We had a great scheme for Pelion’s offense,” Clyburn said. “We shut down their (option) game and were tackling the quarterback before he could make his read. Our defense just settled in and didn’t give them an inch.”
The guests drew first blood in converting on a key third down to keep a first quarter scoring march alive to jump to an 8-0 lead.
With the Panthers loading the box with seven to sometimes, eight, players to slow down the NC running game, the hosts evened things with a second quarter drive.
Getting yardage on a mix of short runs and passes, the Knights moved to the PHS 20. From there, quarterback Hunter Wyant found tight end Warren Moseley with a 20-yard scoring pass. Wyant then hit Mike Ostas with the two-point conversion pass to tie the game at 8-8, a score which would hold up through halftime and into the fourth quarter.
With its offense relying on the ground game, Pelion moved 6-foot-1, 220-pound junior Freddie Phillips from wide receiver to outside linebacker. He helped lead a Panther defense which, again, gave NC fits.
“Their defense is good,” Clyburn said. “Last year, they held us to about 80 yards rushing, which is about what we got this time. They just loaded the box on us and played man coverage in the secondary.”
The NC defense was more than up to the challenge as the end of the second quarter and the entire third quarter became a chess match with neither offense gaining much traction.
Near the end of the third quarter, Pelion went from the spread set to a double-wing look and made some headway. With some nine minutes left in the contest, on a read option, the Panther quarterback waited to the last second to hand off to his fullback on the dive play which went for a 22-yard touchdown and a 14-8 lead.
NC came right back and grinded the clock in driving to the Pelion five with less than two minutes to play. On third and inches from the five, an illegal procedure call set the hosts back to the 10. On that play, Wyant rolled out of the pocket and had Paul Blackwell open for a split second only to have Phillips sprint toward the open receiver and bat the pass away.
Coming up empty on that series, NC turned the ball over to the Panthers at their own five with 1:20 to play. A long quarterback keeper to midfield got the visitors out of the hole and seconds later, another fullback dive resulted in the final score of the night.
One area in which the Knights did a much better job on Friday was on special teams. William Jenkins had a good night punting the football away from the Panthers’ playmakers while Jay Parks gave the hosts better field position by getting much-needed return yardage on punts.
“Our special teams were vastly improved from a week ago,” Clyburn said. “We implemented some stunts with our kickoff teams and we held them to about 10 return yards all night and no return yards on punts.”
Following the loss to Keenan, Clyburn lamented his team’s lack of big plays. He put that burden on himself to try and make things happen on offense.
“Our guys battled. I have to do a better job of coaching,” he said. “Our defense and Fairfield Central are nip and tuck as to who has the best defense in our region in terms of points allowed. Our defense gave us a chance to win this game.
“We just have to figure out a way to make plays. We had some dropped passes and we missed some throws against Pelion. We have to find a way to make things happen on offense. The bottom line there is that I have to do a better job of coaching our guys. We have to find a way to score points when teams put seven or eight men in the box against us with man coverage in the secondary.”
After the loss in a game played in front of another large crowd in Boonetown, Clyburn gave the NC fan base a promiose.
“School spirit and fan support at North Central is better than it’s ever been. And we appreciate all their support,” he said. “Our kids are working hard and they’re fighting hard and if we keep working, good things are going to happen.
“Our coaching staff vows to figure out a way to put our players in a better situation to win ballgames.”

Knight Lights: Jenkins was held to a season-low 76 yards rushing on 21 carries against a Pelion defense which was designed to take away the NC running attack ... As a team, the Knights had 34 carries for 66 yards on the ground ... Wyant completed eight of his 23 pass attempts for 115 yards ... Moseley led all NC receivers with three grabs for 69 yards, including one for the hosts’ lone touchdown ... Senior defensive end Tristan McCathern returned to the lineup after missing the Keenan game with an injury to lead the Knights with 10 tackles, including five solo stops. Moseley was next with nine tackles ... Pelion rushed the ball 39 times for 251 yards while adding 27 more in the air for 278 total yards of offense ... Pelion did not have a turnover while the Knights had four ... NC returns to Bolden Stadium in Columbia for the second time in three games when the Knights take on Eau Claire on Friday night. The Shamrocks are, also, 0-2 in Region 3-AA play.

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