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Rams blank battered Knights

Posted: October 24, 2016 4:08 p.m.
Updated: October 25, 2016 1:00 a.m.

Had this game been played earlier in the season, maybe Friday’s North Central at Chesterfield pairing may have had a different outcome. Or, if not a reversal in fortunes, it most certainly would have been a more closely contested contest.

While North Central took to the road battered and with a laundry list of injured players from the past several weeks, the host Rams are just beginning to get healthy after having endured their visit from the injury bug.

The hits --- both physical and in the win-loss column --- kept coming for the Knights which fell to Chesterfield, 45-0. The loss dropped Louis Clyburn’s troops to 3-5 overall and 0-4 in Region 4-AA play. Chesterfield won for the first time in five conference games with the shutout victory.

Playing without recent West Point commitment Cedrick Cunningham (right hand injury) and projected starting quarterback Bubba Williamson, who is still working his way into shape after suffering a shoulder injury in a pre-season scrimmage, NC was also without its starting safety, who attended a family funeral during the week. 

As if to add injury to insult, starting lineman Gwenden Baldwin was also medically transported from the game after suffering a head injury which was later ruled as a slight concussion. Baldwin was hit well after the whistle by a Ram player who was subsequently ejected from the game.

It was yet another chapter in what has become a long season in Boonetown for a team which needs to regroup before traveling to meet a physical Central entry on Friday night.

“This has been one of the most amazing seasons in my 23 years of football that I’ve ever been a part of,” Clyburn said with ‘amazing’ not being used in the good sense of the word.

The Knights had nine fumbles, losing five of those including three in a first half in which the Rams jumped out to a 17-0 first quarter lead which stood at 24-0 at the half.

Sophomore Tyler Faulkenberry was given the start at quarterback, in addition to his duties as the team starting safety. Faulkenberry, who split time at quarterback with senior Zack Jones, later left the game with an injury.

“Offensively,” Clyburn said while alluding to his team’s ball-handling troubles, “we couldn’t do anything. Both Tyler and Zack play on both sides of the ball for us which puts us in a pinch, personnel-wise.”

A fumble on the game’s first snap by NC was recovered by the Rams at the Knights’ 30, which led to the game’s first touchdown.

The mounting injuries led to 10 Knights having to play both ways. That, said Clyburn, left little room for in-game instruction and adjustments.

“I didn’t have anything to do after the offense was supposed to come off the field because those guys were playing on defense, too,” he said. “I could have talked with our right guard but that was it.”

The NC offense was held to a season-low 30 yards with Jones rushing for 25 yards on 11 carries while DeAunte Samuel, who was moved on defense from linebacker to safety, went for 14 yards on 11 carries.

“We didn’t have any rhythm on offense,” Clyburn said. “We had too many turnovers and we never could get ahead of the chains. We got into too many third and long situations which are hard for us to make.”

The Rams piled up 443 yards in offense against a weary, NC defensive unit.

“I thought that our defense played a decent game,” Clyburn said. “For the second year in a row against Chesterfield, we just ran out of people. And Chesterfield’s quarterback (Savion Watson) miraculously gets healthy when it’s time for us to play them. He played a very good game for them.

“Chesterfield didn’t do anything special against us. I thought our defensive backs played a good game. Sophomore Markel Portee had a good game at cornerback and batted down a pass for us on a fade pattern. He’s really coming around on defense after being one of best receivers.”

With his varsity team taking hits from all directions, Clyburn said the Knights will look to their junior varsity team for reinforcements, especially on the defensive side of the football.

“We are going to bring up some jayvee guys and get them to help with our depth this week,” he said. “There was not a kid on our sideline who did not get into the game on Friday as our coaches tried to keep our guys as fresh as possible.”

After the game, the NC staff readjusted their two-deep and on that list they found that half of their first 22 players were either sophomores or freshmen. While that bodes well for the future, the Knights know their young players have to grow up fast, especially against a Central team which plays a hard-nosed game and likes to pound the ball at people with its ground attack.

As for Williamson, Clyburn would not say whether he could make his season debut this week but there was no doubting that he was not an option to play in Chesterfield.

“Bubba’s not ready,” said the NC head coach of the junior signal-caller. “He had a lot of soreness after our practices last week and we are not going to jeopardize a kid’s health just for him to play in a football game.”

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