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Knights back in familiar territory for first round game

Posted: November 6, 2013 1:37 p.m.
Updated: November 8, 2013 5:00 a.m.

When the Chesterfield coaches watched North Central’s 19-0 loss to Fairfield Central last week, members of the Rams’ staff probably scratched their heads as to that the Knights would try next.
It was not by accident.
NC opened the second half with a successful onsides kick against the top-ranked Griffins. There were other little things, like changing formations on both sides of the ball, designed to give whoever the Knights played in tonight’s first round of the AA Upper State Division II playoffs something extra to think about.
Louis Clyburn, NC’s fifth-year head coach, smiled when asked what the Chesterfield coaches will think after watching the Knights’ game tapes as they prepare to entertain NC in tonight’s post-season opener.
“If you watch our defensive film and can figure out a rhyme or reason for what we’re doing, more power to you because sometimes, we don’t know,” he said. “It’s kind of what’s being successful at the time, whether we’re three down or four down or, whether we’re blitzing inside or, outside.
“We are very multiple on defense and, I think, that’s what makes us good.”
“Offensively, it’s hard to watch the film and say, ‘To beat us, you’re going to have to stop (NC running back) William Jenkins.’ That’s what Fairfield Central did. We started the second half with a surprise onsides kick which was successful and that we recovered. We wanted whoever we played in the playoffs to look at the film and say that they had their work cut out for us in preparing for a lot of things that we did and, doing them well.”
The Rams come into tonight’s contest off Saturday’s 32-28 loss to rival Cheraw in a game which put Chesterfield third in Region 4 behind Cheraw and Central. Since the game was moved back a night, due to rain, Clyburn was able to take in the contest in person.
“You always like to see your opponent on the hoof, watch them warm up and see them run around,” Clyburn said of the difference between seeing a team on film as compared to being there.
The Knights and Rams are hardly strangers as until the regions were changed in 2012, they were part of the same conference. What has changed since then is that CHS no longer has Steve Taneyhill, now the head coach at Union County, pulling the strings of a high-wire offensive act.
The Rams are led by second-year head coach Ike Allred, a former assistant coach at Newberry College.
Allred has a similar offensive philosophy as his predecessor. What he may not have is the abundance of athletes, which Taneyhill’s teams were blessed with during his tenure in which the Rams won three consecutive Class As Division I state titles beginning in 2007.
“They’re a fast football team,” Clyburn said of the hosts, “maybe, not as physical as they were three or four years ago when we played them, but they are still well-coached. Coach Allred, has done a great job in picking up where Coach Taneyhill left off. It’s always tough to follow a run like that; having that kind of run of athletes again is probably something that may never happen again in Chesterfield County.”
The Rams’ offense is still wide-open with senior quarterback Dillon Rivers having thrown for 3,284 yards and 35 touchdowns this season. Senior David Grant has been on the receiving end of 84 passes for 1,284 yards and 10 touchdowns to head a receiving corps of which four players have caught seven or more scoring tosses.
The NC defense will be challenged tonight by Chesterfield’s constantly changing schemes.
“Spread, shotgun, four wide, split-back with two wides …,” Clyburn said as to what his defense will get tonight.
“They get into a lot of different formations which will be a challenge for our defense. But passing the football is always a gamble and they had a lot of turnovers against Cheraw. It will be interesting to see if they think they need to play it a little closer to the vest and try and run the ball a little more in the first week of the playoffs.
“We’ve said all year that the best pass defense is a good pass rush and putting the quarterback into an uncomfortable situation. That’s what our game plan is going to be.”
The Chesterfield defense has allowed an average of nearly 22 points per game this season. Clyburn said that while this unit is not as dominant as those which NC teams have seen in the past against Chesterfield, the Rams still have players who can create havoc and can get to the football in a hurry.
Clyburn said his players who have played in Chesterfield before must flush those losses from their collective memory banks and focus on the present. He said the Knights cannot afford to be intimidated by the Rams’ previous reputation. It is a similar situation to that of last week against Fairfield Central.
“We’ve talked to our kids all week about being confident and positive about what they can do. That was our theme last week and it’s the same this week going into Chesterfield,” he said.
Having played so many close games and having come out on the wrong end too many times this season, the NC coaches have to feel their luck is due to change. Clyburn said there is no better time for that to happen than in the state playoffs.
By the same token, though, Clyburn knows getting luck on your side comes from putting in the hard work and effort necessary to make good things happen. In that respect, he said the Knights are ready for this challenge.
“I told the kids the other day,” he said, “that as many close games as we’ve come up short in this season and, as good as this team has proven, at times, that it can be, let’s just go in there with a clean slate and see what happens.
“The thing that we’ve hung our hat on, regardless of the score at the time, is that these kids have fought hard and have hung in to the end. They’ve played together and we have a nice little team chemistry going. They’re going to push through and try and extend this thing as long as we can.
“We just told them, ‘Let’s go throw our hat in the ring, do what we do, control what we can control and then, see what happens.’”

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