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Cheraw storms past Knights, 48-12

Posted: October 10, 2016 12:36 p.m.
Updated: October 11, 2016 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I photo/

TYLER FAULKENBERRY THREW for 133 yarsd and a touchdown in North Central’s loss to Cheraw on Thursday night.

CHERAW --- The only game in town went to the Braves of Cheraw on Thursday night. 

In a week where football took a back seat in everyone’s mind due to the impending Hurricane Matthew, some games still took place. Choosing to play a night earlier than scheduled rather than pushing the game to the week of Oct. 31, like the majority of the high school teams in the state, North Central made the trip to Cheraw for a hastily arranged Thursday meeting. 

It was the Braves who jumped out to a 27-0 first quarter lead and never looked back in defeating the Knights, 48-12, to stay unbeaten in Region 4-AA through four games.

The loss dropped Louis Clyburn’s squad to 3-4 overall and 0-3 in conference play.

For the Knights, they battled more than just a tough opponent; they fought off the dreaded injury bug which took out multiple starters early putting them in just as big a hole as the score. Clyburn knew the margin for error facing his team was small. 

“We came out and stumbled with a couple of bad plays in the first quarter,” he said. “That’s a good football team there (Cheraw.) We just couldn’t get that drive together to keep our defense off the field and they hit a few big plays. And it was just hard to come out of that all night.”

Cheraw (7-1) scored on its four possessions as quarterback Bradley Holliman ran for three scores and passed for another when he connected with Kristan McCray from 52 yards away. 

Offensively, NC was effective in its first two drives --- crossing the 50 both times --- but they stalled after being forced to give the ball back to the opposition. In those drives, Cedrick Cunningham ran for 40 yards. The senior broke numerous tackles and showed flashes of how special he can be. Unfortunately, both Cunningham and sophomore quarterback Jamel Jones were injured on the third drive of the game, ending their nights on the field. 

The injuries seemed to pile up throughout the game and the NC sidelines resembled a MASH unit at one point. 

“The injury bug hit hard tonight.” Clyburn said. “I think we ended up having five or six starters out so we had to move some guys around.  But the best thing about it was that I told our guys that nobody flinched and players did their job … guys kept stepping up and filling in.” 

The Knights did not quit and showed plenty of heart in the final minutes of the second quarter and followed it in the opening sequence of the third stanza. 

The guests made it a three-score game after gaining some momentum by intercepting a pass in the end zone in the second quarter with DaShon Bethea making an acrobatic play on the ball playing man coverage to bring down the pick. 

Clyburn lit up when asked about his talented cornerback. 

“DaShon Bethea as a senior is playing well. He’s had some big games in his career but tonight the one thing he showed was that he can step up as an on-the-field leader when guys went down. He kept encouraging his teammates. He got the defense lined up and showed some big-play ability on the interception,” Clyburn said.

The Knights would go down and score right before the half making it 27-6. Senior tailback DeAunte Samuel carried the load on the drive --- filling in for Cunningham --- and did well as he finished with 68 yards rushing on the night. He went in from 17 yards away for the first NC touchdown of the evening.

“We got a little momentum back in the second quarter,” Clyburn said. “We made it a three-score game and then, came out in the third and played hard defensively. Some guys were playing out of position it but still worked out. 

“DeAunte Samuel was playing safety and he’s a middle linebacker. Depending how these injuries turn out, some guys will be learning new positions.”

The NC defense had a big stop to start the second half and scored, going 70 yards down the field making it 27-12 after Bethea grabbed a 66-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Tyler Faulkenberry. 

The Knights came out of the locker room fired up. When asked what he told his team at the half, Clyburn referenced a disappointing 46-19 loss to Lee Central six nights earlier. 

“We have a code we live by and with all the adversity that hit and last week it was fresh in their minds that we let a 19-6 halftime lead over a ranked team get away from us where we didn’t play one quarter,” he said. “We kind of reestablished and committed back to that code. We never quit. The kids did that and coaches did a good job making a few adjustments. Guys came hard and executed early.”

The momentum and feeling of a comeback, however, was taken away in an instant as Cheraw drove right back down the field on the ensuing drive and extended the lead back to three touchdowns with a touchdown. 

The Knights would struggle to cross midfield in the second half. One of the players who had to fill in for injured starters and shined on defense was junior Patrick Carter, who played multiple positions on the night. He even led the team in tackles with seven stops. 

“Patrick Carter has been strong.” Clyburn said. “All season long, he’s been searching for that spot and position. He’s a role player and he’s done well playing corner, linebacker, wide out and running back. He just plays hard.”

Cheraw tacked on two rushing touchdowns from Cam Gainey and Quan Pittman to put the final nails in the coffin with a 48-12 final which kept them unbeaten in region play. 

All in all, it was rough night for North Central which not only lost the game but also several players to injury. Surely, more questions will arise for the Knights as they venture into the final three weeks of the regular season beginning with Friday’s regular season home finale against visiting Buford. 

Clyburn was still optimistic and positive on his team’s future. 

“The kids played as a team and it was fun to watch,” he said following the setback in Chesterfield County. “Certainly, our expectation was not to have an outcome like this but the adversity that this team faced coming into the ballgame with some guys in different spots ...

 “We have some guys that have a whole lot of heart and I’m excited for them. I told them I’m proud to be their coach and proud of the way they played. There certainly was not any quit. They were clawing and scratching and pulling for each other. There’s nobody on the bench that didn’t play. They all got in there tonight. I’m excited to watch them the next three weeks of the season.”

 

Knight Lights: Although he was in uniform after sustaining an injury to his collarbone in the pre-season and being cleared to return to the team and to practice, NC junior quarterback Bubba Williamson was held out of Thursday’s game. No timeline was given as to his return … The other injured players from Thursday’s game will be evaluated this week in practice … Cunningham rushed for 40 yards on seven carries in his injury-abbreviated stint. The senior needs 37 yards to reach the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season … Faulkenberry completed nine of his 17 pass attempts for 133 yards and a touchdown. The scoring toss was the second of the season for the sophomore … Bethea caught two passes for 76 yards, including one going for a 66-yard score. He also returned three kicks for 79 yards … In addition to leading the Knights with 68 yards on 19 carries, Samuel also caught two passes for 25 yards … The Knights ran for 104 yards on 40 carries while passing for 133 yards for 237 yards in offense on 48 snaps … Cheraw ran the ball 32 times for 336 yards and threw for another 64 for 400 total yards on 35 plays.


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