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Central explodes in second half to topple Knights

Posted: October 31, 2016 3:54 p.m.
Updated: November 1, 2016 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I photo/

DEAUNTE SAMUEL RUSHED for 88 yards and a touchdown in North Central’s 53-12 loss to Central on Friday night. The Knights will have this week off before returning home to face Buford on Nov. 11.

Just when you thought North Central was all but locked into packing up its football equipment for the season after its Nov. 11 game with Buford comes this bit of information:

Should North Central defeat Buford in the regular season finale, it will find itself in a three-way tie for the fifth and final playoff berth from Region 4-AA. 

As it stands, Chesterfield is currently in fifth place with a final 1-5 4-AA mark with that win coming over BNC. Buford has a 1-4 record with its one win coming over Chesterfield. A Knights win over Buford next Friday would throw things into a tizzy in a conference in which the league’s seven athletic directors are just now scurrying to come up with a tie-breaking system.

North Central found itself still searching for its first 4-AA win after falling to host Central, 53-12, last Friday in Pageland in a game in which the Eagles carried a 20-12 lead into the locker room at halftime.

Things would go south quickly for the Knight (3-6, 0-5 in 4AA) as Central scored 20 points in a wild, if not controversial, third quarter before tacking on 13 points in the final stanza to close the game on a 33-0 run.

“In the first half,” said NC head coach Louis Clyburn, “we went out there and didn’t flinch. I was very proud of our team. In the second half, they wore us down and we just ran out of gas.”

After having been limited to 30 yards in offense in a loss to Chesterfield a week earlier, the Knights rushed for 109 yards and Tyler Faulkenberry threw for another 100 of the visitors’ 209 yards in total offense.

Senior DeAunte Samuel ran for 88 of NC’s yards on 23 carries while Faulkenberry, a sophomore, completed 12 of his 28 pass attempts while also rushing for a touchdown.

Clyburn said the lessons his team learned in being shut out by the Rams the previous week helped in developing the game plan for Central (6-3, 3-2).

“We knew that Central would have the same game plan for us on defense as Chesterfield had for us which was to stop the running game,” Clyburn said. 

“Chesterfield loaded the box against us and we were unable to generate any offense against them.

“We knew the key to this game would be for us to be aggressive with the passing game. We were successful early in the game with our fades and play-action passes that loosened them up. That helped open the middle of the field for our running game and for DeAunte.”

That mix on offense helped the Knights jump to a quick 6-0 lead as the guests used a 10-play drive to open things on the game’s first possession which ended with Faulkenberry sneaking the ball in from the one for the game’s first score.

NC moved into the Central red zone on its second possession before losing a fumble which led to a Central scoring drive. On the ensuing kick, the Knights tried a throwback pass against the Eagles’ pursuit only to lose the ball.

Taking a chance, which had worked against Central in previous seasons, seemed to excite the NC defensive unit which took the field knowing the Knight coaches were going to try and take chances to win the game. “I think that fired up our defense,” Clyburn said of that unit’s approach after the turnover. “I thought that our defense played well.”

NC went on another scoring drive with Samuel doing the honors with a scoring run which made it 14-12 midway through the second quarter. 

The Knights were moving the ball again late in the first half only to have a controversial non-call on a pass play give the ball back to the Eagles who, on the next snap, received a 75-yard scoring pass from Kevon Wall to Mark Espinoza to help the hosts take a 20-12 halftime lead.

NC held a 40-21 advantage in snaps and outgained the Eagles, 172-145, in total yardage in the first 24 minutes of the game. 

“We were close to stepping out of a few tackles on plays in that first half which could have gone for touchdowns,” Clyburn said. “We could have been up by a couple touchdowns at halftime.”

The Eagles got the ball to start the second half and, coming out in an unbalanced set and using runs of 16 and 28 yards, scored to go on top, 27-12.

Getting the ball back after the kick, the Knights dropped a jet sweep, considered a forward pass. When the ball hit the ground, the NC players and most of the Central players stopped saved for one Eagle who picked up the ball. After a lengthy discussion with themselves and both head coaches, the Knights were awarded the football but the damage had been done.

“The rhythm’s gone,” Clyburn said of the effect the extended delay had on his team’s offense. A Knight punt on the series led to a 59-yard Central scoring pass which hiked the lead to 34-12.

Having young players on special teams cost NC on the ensuing kick as the Central kicker hit the ball with the side of his foot, nearing missing the ball. The twisting ball wound up in the hands of the Eagles who used a pair of disputed pass interference calls inside the 20 to move to the NC five only for the Knights to get a hold on defense.

An interception, however, led to another Central touchdown to make it 41-12. Another Eagle pick set up a score as the lead grew to 47-12 early in the fourth quarter against a weary group of Knights.

“We had a couple of absurd series in the third quarter,” Clyburn said. “It was almost like being in the twilight zone with how it went from being 20-12 to a 47-12 game.”

Clyburn said his four two-way seniors --- Samuel, Zack Jones, DaShon Bethea and Zeidel Clark --- were “exhausted in the second half. They were on the field way too much in the second half.” And with five other starters on the sidelines, the Knights were forced to use inexperienced sophomore and freshmen against the Eagles.

After having played at quarterback and safety against Chesterfield, Faulkenberry played mainly at quarterback against Central which was a plus, Clyburn said. “That helped because Tyler was able to come off the field and I was able to communicate with him when we were on defense,” Clyburn said.

Clyburn said he hopes having this week off will allow some of the young players to develop more while affording his injured players more time to heal and, possibly, be ready to go against Buford.

“Hopefully, we will use this week to come around,” he said. “When you look at our depth chart, you see a lot of young players and inexperience on it.”

 

Knight Lights: Clyburn said he expects there to be “a lot of debate and conversation” between Region 4-AA athletic directors in trying to develop a fair tie-breaker system this week … In addition to rushing for 88 yards and returning a punt for 18 yards, Samuel tied sophomore defensive back Patrick Samuel with 10 tackles … Zack Jones was next with eight stops while Mike Jones added six tackles … The Knights were limited to 38 yards in total offense on 25 second half snaps … NC lost the turnover battle, 7-1, to the Eagles … Markell Portee led the guests with four catches for 39 yards.


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