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Knight hope to derail ninth-ranked Stallions

Posted: September 29, 2016 3:02 p.m.
Updated: September 30, 2016 1:00 a.m.

DASHON BETHEA ... NC defensive back

It used to be that a game with Lee Central was seen as a mere bump in the road for a team which could afford to look ahead to the following week.

Oh, how times have changed.

Under first-year head coach Justin Danner, the Stallions finished the 2015 season with a 1-9 record. With just two seniors on the roster and playing in rugged Region 4-AA, not many people gave Lee Central much of a chance to be very successful this year.

Six games and as many wins later, the Stallions will come into North Central tonight as the state’s ninth-ranked AA team.

Last season notwithstanding, the final four seasons under former head coach Baron Turner saw the Stallions average five wins per year with seven victories coming in 2012. A two-win 2-14 campaign was followed by a 1-9 mark a season ago. Now, though, Lee Central is trending upward.

“The past four seasons, including with Baron Turner as head coach,” said NC head coach Louis Clyburn of the Stallions, “they have really done a good job in turning that program around. They have probably won more football games over the past four years than they ever have in the history of that school. 

“They have never been short on athletes and (Danner) has them confident and they’ve had some early success. It’s going to be a huge challenge for us (tonight.)”

The two sides come into this contest having come off different forms of victories. For the Knights, they breezed to a 33-0 halftime lead which paved the way for a 46-0 win over outmanned Great Falls. Meanwhile, in Bishopville, the Stallions used a 90-yard scoring from Deondraye Moses to take a 28-21 lead over Chesterfield. The visitors had a chance to tie or win the game with the ball at the LC one yard line only to have a pass batted down by a Lee Central defender as the final horn sounded.

The victory was the second in as many conference starts for Danner and company which opened 4-AA play with a 44-13 drubbing of Buford two Fridays ago. For the hosts, tonight is a chance to even their league ledger after two games following a 26-0 loss at the hands of rival Andrew Jackson two weeks ago.

Clyburn said his team can ill afford to fall too far behind in a conference race which has Lee Central, Andrew Jackson and Cheraw all sitting atop the seven-team circuit with 2-0 records.

“Like I told our players,” Clyburn said of tonight’s Military Appreciation contest in Boonetown, “it’s a challenge. We have the number nine team in the state coming in here so let’s cut it loose and see what happens. I feel good about the plan that our coaches have put in place for this game.”

Much of the focus for the Knights in practice this week has been on the defensive side of the ball in preparing to see the Wing T offense for the first and, most likely, only time during the regular season. Junior Demetrious DuBose calls the signals in the set and is a dangerous runner who is rarely asked to put the ball in the air.

The Stallions have speed to burn in a trio of running backs headed by Moses, who ran for 225 yards on 20 carries last week. Fellow running back Michael Weston added another 125 on 13 carries while Dayrice Austin chipped in with an 85-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against the Rams. 

In preparing for the Wing T, Clyburn and his defensive staff went old school in practice to get their defenders prepared for a scheme in which finding which player has the ball can be tricky.

“It used to be, back in the day, that everybody in high school football ran the Wing T,” said the Knight boss. “It’s a little unique and we’ve had to slow things down in practice.

“We practiced some without a football; we’re training the defensive players not to watch. If you get into where you are trying to watch the football and see who has it and where it’s handed off because you have those three backs in the backfield, you’ll get dizzy and will get blocked. You have to focus on the blocking schemes.

“As the head coach, I’ve frustrated our defensive players a little bit who’ve been asking, ‘Coach, how are we going to practice without a football?’ After 30 minutes, they’ve figured it out.”

In last week’s win over Great Falls, the Knights switched up their defense to try and confuse the Red Devils. More changes are in store tonight as NC will try and confuse the Stallion offense by giving it different looks.

“We’re going to show them two different fronts,” Clyburn said. “We’re going to change things up against them so that they can’t set their blocking schemes one way. We have all these different things that can make the opposing team have to be on their heels and then, we can have success on Friday night.”

Lee Central has allowed 12.5 points per game. Its defense came up big several times against Chesterfield including repelling a pair of Ram drives which got into the red zone. Clyburn said when his offense gets inside the Stallions’ 20, the Knights must be able to finish the drive with touchdowns.

“That is where we have been a lot better football team this year than we have been in the past years,” Clyburn said of the trips to the red zone. “We have to continue that success. When we get the ball in the red zone, we have to score if we expect to win this game.”

Jamel Jones is expected to get the starting nod under center as starting quarterback Tyler Faulkenberry is hopeful of returning to the fold from an injury which sidelined him a week ago. Clyburn has trimmed the playbook and is working to Jones’ strengths while not asking the sophomore to try and win the game by himself.

In fact, Clyburn said, it would not shock him in the least bit if this game is not decided by the respective offenses or, the defensive units. This is a contest which could come down to which side has the better of things in special teams.

“We’re going to win or lose this ballgame with a series of plays,” Clyburn said. “If we can be efficient in all three phases of the game; if we can execute the kickoff, the punt, the kickoff return and the punt return and then execute the defense we’re going to put out there, then we’re going to have a chance to win this game.”


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