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North Central smashes school records, Red Devils in 46-0 Homecoming rout

Posted: September 26, 2016 4:04 p.m.
Updated: September 27, 2016 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I photo/

ZACH JONES RUSHED FOR 43 of North Central’s school-record 406 yards on the ground in Friday’s win over Great Falls.

Following a shutout loss at the hands of neighboring rival Andrew Jackson one week earlier, North Central was in search of a rebound, feel good victory.

Enter Great Falls.

The Red Devils were the perfect Homecoming guests as the host Knights posted a school-record 541 yards in offense in dismantling the still-winless visitors, 46-0, on Friday night at Knights Stadium.

The win gave NC a 4-2 record heading into this Friday’s game with visiting Lee Central coming to Boonetown. It also took some of the sting from the shutout at the hands of the Volunteers the previous Friday night.

For Great Falls, the setback was the sixth in as many starts for a squad which did not play a scheduled game with the Carolina Wildcats on Sept. 16 as the program forfeited the non-High School League contest in order for the program to regroup. That came one week after the Red Devils jumped to a 22-0 lead over Ware Shoals before allowing 77 unanswered points.

Coming into Friday’s game, NC head coach Louis Clyburn admitted to being a bit on edge as to what his team might see from the Red Devils.

“In the last game they played,” he said, “what Great Falls was able to do early in the game was a little unnerving. They got six or seven players to come out for the football team from the basketball team at Great Falls who weren’t with them at the start of the season. They forfeited their game (with the Carolina Wildcats) to prepare for the second half of the season.”

The second portion of the GF campaign was a virtual continuation of the first five games as the Knights scored on their first two possessions and rolled to a 33-0 halftime lead. Only a pair of lost third quarter fumbles prevented the hosts from hanging 60-plus points on the Red Devils.

NC senior tailback/part-time quarterback Cedrick Cunningham rushed for a career-best 216 yards on just 10 carries while scoring four first half touchdowns along the way.

Cunningham took a toss sweep handoff from starting quarterback Jamel Jones on NC’s first possession and ran it in for a 45-yard touchdown for a 6-0 lead which would yard touchdown for a 6-0 lead which would be all the points the Knights would need.

Cunningham would strike again minutes later when he dashed to the end zone from 20 yards away as the lead grew to 14-0 after Jones went over on the zone read for the two-point conversion as the advantage climbed to 14-0.

Clyburn said taking any wind out of the Red Devils’ sails early was something he hoped his team would be able to do on Friday night.

“We preached all week long about how important it was for us to dominate the first quarter,” he said.

Things got even worse for the visitors as NC scored three times in the second quarter to put this one well out of reach.

Cunningham continued his personal one-man assault with a 35-yard scoring jaunt from the quarterback position. One series later, Jones scored on a 10-yard quarterback keeper on the zone read which was followed by Cole Bodiford’s PAT kick. Cunningham closed the first 24 minutes with a 30-yard scoring run in the closing minutes of the first half.

While the Knights’ offense was piling up points and yardage, their defense was holding the Red Devil offense in check as the guests had just 16 yards in total offense in the first 24 minutes while finishing with just 58 yards for the night.

“Defensively,” Clyburn said, “we changed up our looks. Great Falls was in the spread and they like to hurt you with short passes.

“We had a defensive game plan similar to the one we had for Camden earlier in the season. We played a lot of zone defense and it paid off. We tried to change our blitzes. We were stunting in man coverage and had line stunts when we were in zone coverage.

“We did a much better job of disguising and changing up our defensive looks. It paid off for us in the first and second quarters because we confused them. We also tackled better at the line of scrimmage than we did against AJ, too.”

The Knights lost two fumbles at the end of long runs as the same GF defensive back was able to strip the ball from two different NC ball carriers. That did not sit well with Clyburn. “Both times, their same guy got to our backs and raked the ball out of our arms,” he said of a scoreless third stanza. “We always work on ball security in practice. It was probably a good lesson for us to learn because we’re certainly going to have to protect the football this week (against Lee Central.)”

In the fourth quarter, Jones was back at the controls with the sophomore hooking up with classmate Markel Portee on a screen pass which the 6-foot-1, 155-pound wide receiver turned into a school-record 82-yard touchdown reception which was followed by Cole Bodiford’s PAT kick for the 27-0 lead.

“Markel walked the dog on that play,” Clyburn said. “Great Falls is a team which is not short on speed and Markel stretched it out on them. Nobody on their team was making up ground on him. That just shows you the type of potential that he has. It was very impressive.”

A 48-yard scoring run from sophomore Patrick Carter closed the book on the scoring and the shutout.

After being limited to 46 yards rushing against AJ, the Knights piled up 406 yards on the ground on 30 carries for an average of better than 13.5 yards per carry.

“That was very important,” Clyburn said when asked how the running game figured into the game plan for Great Falls. “AJ did a great job against the run last week when we played them. This time, we blocked better and we blocked for the entire play. We gave maximum effort every play and finished our blocks.

“We told our players that if they were tired to come out. We told them don’t take a play off but take a play out if you are tired. Our coaches did a great job of making sure we had fresh guys in the game and doing just that.”

Clyburn said Jones, who got the starting nod at quarterback for the injured Tyler Faulkenberry, was more at ease as the game went along. He said the NC staff pared down the offensive game plan and adjusted it to take advantage of Jones’ skill set.

The one-sided victory sets the Knights up for Friday’s visit from unbeaten Lee Central.

“This has to be one of the top one or two games in class AA this week,” Clyburn said. “They are one of the top rushing teams in the state and their coach is doing a great job over there. We have to be good in all three phases of the game against Lee Central. This can be one of those games where special teams play can tip the scales one way or another.”

 

Knight Lights: After Cunningham, Jones was next on the rushing charts for the Knights with five carries for 61 yards. He also completed four of five passes for 135 yards while scoring a touchdown with his right arm as well as his legs … In addition to Bodiford’s PAT kick, Dani Martinez made his lone try of the night … DeAunte Samuel’s eight tackles from his linebacking post led the Knights’ defense … GF had 32 yards on the ground on 22 attempts while completing five of 19 passes for 26 yards which was good for 58 yards in offense … North Central rang up its 541 yards on just 38 snaps ... Friday’s game with Lee Central will be the final of six consecutive homes games to open the season for the Knights who will hit the road for the first time a week later when they travel to Cheraw ... Friday’s game with Lee Central will be North Central’s Military Appreciation Night game with the Knights wearing their camo-themed jersies for the occasion ... With Camden having a bye this week and with Lugoff-Elgin on the road, North Central has also deemed its game with Lee Central as Recreation Department Football Night. Clyburn said that any recreation league football player from any team and any part of the country will be admitted into the game free of charge. The young players and their coaches will be recognized during a halftime program on the playing field.

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