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Slowing down Griffins next task for Knights

Posted: October 31, 2013 2:50 p.m.
Updated: November 1, 2013 5:00 a.m.

MATHEW SOWELL ... NC offensive lineman

What can speed do for you?
In the case of Fairfield Central, it can turn a 10-point deficit into a 17-point win in the matter of some 17 minutes of game clock time.
Last week, the Griffins trailed Pelion, 16-6, with about five minutes left in the third quarter of their Region 3-AA contest. Then came a pair of Pelion mistakes on a DeAndre Belton carry and FC was, literally, off and running with the game and the conference title.
“They are really putting some big numbers on the board. They are a really fast football team, without a doubt,” said North Central head coach Louis Clyburn, whose Knights will host the Griffins tonight on Senior Night in Boonetown. “At the same time, they’re not invincible.
“Last week, Pelion was leading them, 16-6, with five minutes left to go in the third quarter. So, they were one quarter and five minutes away (from winning the game.) It wasn’t really anything that Fairfield Central did. It was more of Pelion, that you can tell, knowing the way (the Griffins) are and missing a tackle. One guy missed filling a gap and one guy in the secondary misses a tackle and their quarterback takes it 60 yards for the touchdown.”
As for Clyburn’s point as to the Griffins’ being able to score in bunches, the statistics bear him out. In nine games this season, Demetrius Davis’ offense is averaging better than 42 points per outing. The visitors from Winnsboro are none-too-shabby on the other side of the football in having surrendered just 97 points or, a 10.8 average per outing.
For the Knights, the game plan is simple: Keep the ball away from an explosive FC offense and gets points from as many possessions as possible.
“They can score fast and, you can’t make mistakes against a fast football team like this because they can take advantage of it that quickly,” Clyburn said.
“Our success in this ballgame will come with our ability to maintain the football and run it. We’ve worked all week and stressed that we can’t have that turnover bug which hurt us last week against Columbia. That can’t happen this week. We have to be able to replicate the success that we had running the football and maintain possession of the ball.”
Against Columbia last Friday, the Knights received a 276-yard rushing performance from junior tailback William Jenkins, who had his number called on 44 occasions. But it was not enough to overcome seven turnovers which led to a 26-14 win by the Caps.
Of all the miscues, none was more damaging than a 101-yard interception return for a touchdown by the Caps on a first-and-goal from the one play. That was one of the few times, over the course of the past several weeks, in which the Knights did not cash in on a red zone opportunity.
“The past two or three weeks,” Clyburn said, “when we’ve gotten the ball in the red zone, obviously, minus the back-breaking turnover last week, we’ve been a lot better in the red zone. We’re scoring when we get there.”
Clyburn and staff anticipate FC’s loading up the box in order to slow Jenkins down. Should that be the case, the Knights will need to loosen the Griffins up by being able to move the ball in the air. In both instances, the onus will be on an ever-improving NC offensive line to create running room for Jenkins and provide quarterback Hunter Wyant with time to find open targets.
Even though the Griffins have wrapped up the conference crown and NC still has yet to win a league game, Clyburn said his team enjoyed a spirited week of practice, knowing that they will be a heavy underdog.
“We’re excited about this week, but we know the biggest thing we have to do to is control what North Central does,” he said. “I know that’s a cliché, but it’s never more true than this week.
“If we can limit our mistakes, play well up front, play solid defense and run to the ball and make tackles, we can have a chance in this ballgame in the fourth quarter, which is what you want. Anytime you play a really good football team, you want to battle and battle and then, have a chance to win the ballgame in the fourth quarter, regardless of what you have to do.”
Clyburn said the perfect scenario is for this game to to be a one touchdown contest, either way, which would give the Knights the chance to spring the upset in the fourth quarter.
“Who knows how the scenario will unfold; Whether they have a one-touchdown lead or, we have the lead?” Clyburn said. “Regardless, you just want to have a shot in the fourth quarter to go out and win the football game when you are playing a good football team.”
No matter what happens tonight, there will be another game for the Knights to play. They know they are in the class AA Division II playoffs which begin next week. Clyburn said he and his team would like nothing better than to enter the post-season on a positive note.
“Everybody’s peaking and, you’re hoping that you’re peaking at the end of the season. That’s where we are,” he said.
“I know that, in wins and losses, it hasn’t shown, but we are an improved football team. “This bunch has been through a lot and it would be great to see them throw their hat in the ring, battle this football team and come out with a victory.”



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