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Knights wary of winless Rocks

Posted: October 17, 2013 2:31 p.m.
Updated: October 18, 2013 5:00 a.m.
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JULIAN BONDS ... NC lineman

It might be a hard sell if the North Central football staff did not have visual proof that Eau Claire is not as bad as its 0-7 record would indicate.
When the Knights travel to Bolden Stadium in Columbia tonight to take on the winless Shamrocks, one thing which will not be packed on the bus will be an equipment bag filled with overconfidence.
All week long, Louis Clyburn and his coaches have tried to impress upon their kids that Eau Claire is a team which has enough weapons and enough athletes with speed to come away with a win. The Knights are just hoping tonight is not the occasion on which the Rocks put a full 48 minutes of football together.
“We’re very fortunate to have the film of their games,” Clyburn said of Eau Claire. “Our guys can see that regardless of this team not having won a football game, yet, this is a talented group of football players and a talented group of athletes. We have to be ready to play and, we have to be ready to make plays.”
Eau Claire’s struggles are not confined to this season alone. Tyrone Davis’s squad has not won a contest since the 2012 season opener. Since then, the Rocks have lost 16 straight games.
Already this season, Eau Claire has scored more points (82) than it did in 10 outings in 2012 when the Shamrocks posted 71. Defensively, things are tough for tonight’s hosts which have surrendered 307 points, nearly 44 points per game, in seven weeks.
Clyburn said his defense, which allows opponents a little more than 18 points per game, will be tested tonight by another game-breaker in EC wide receiver Wallace Greene, who is a threat any time he touches the ball and from any spot on the field.
“They have the weapons to beat you,” Clyburn said. “They have a good running back and they have a receiver (Greene) who I have not seen anyone as good as he is all year on film. He’s a big guy and if they get the ball to him, good things are going to happen for them.
“They’re a dangerous, dangerous football team and, for whatever reason, they’ve just come up short and, at the end of the ballgame, have self-destructed. What we have to do is create an environment which makes them uncomfortable and forces them to make the same mistakes which they have made in every single ballgame. In turn, we can’t mistakes.”
In watching Eau Claire on film, Clyburn has seen a pattern in which the Rocks stay in a game for the first half of play only to have a series of breakdowns follow and turn things around in a hurry. The most glaring example of that, he said, came in a 39-14 loss to a very good Lewisville squad.
In that game, the Shamrocks jumped out to a 6-0 lead and held onto the advantage into the second quarter only to see things go bad from there.
“If you go back and look at all those ballgames and look at the halftime scores, they have been in every ballgame,” Clyburn said of EC’s solid play in the opening half.
“You have to be ready for that initial surge. And if you don’t create situations where they make mistakes, and that’s what teams have done against them in putting pressure on their quarterback and putting pressure on different phases of the game and cause them to make a turnover and cause them to make a mistake … if you don’t put that kind of pressure on them, they will beat you.”
Tonight’s game continues a stretch in which, Clyburn said, his team does not have as many athletes as does the opposition. With Jordan Thompson getting more comfortable in his role as starting quarterback and with Greene a playmaker on the outside, Clyburn said his team can ill afford to overlook the Shamrocks.
“They’re, certainly, the most athletic team that you’ll see all year,” Clyburn said as a warning. “They have guys who are big, tall and fast. For whatever reason, they’ve shot themselves in t he foot and have not ended up making plays and finishing ballgames.”
The game plan for the Knights, said Clyburn, is a simple on. The object for the guests is to make sure that Thompson and Greene are on the bench for as long as possible as the NC offense sets the tempo and churns out yardage, takes up valuable clock time and, most importantly, cashes in on their opportunities with the ball.
“Going into a game like this,” Clyburn said, “we have to control the football. We need to be able to run the football and keep the ball out of their playmakers’ hands. We have to play a ballgame where we’re not making mistakes, whether it be the kicking game, on defense or, on offense; especially on offense where we have to control the football.
“On defene, we have to create situation where we make them make mistakes and then, go out and win the turnover battle.”

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