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Simon says ...

Sophomore tailback runs wild as Knights drub Red Devils, 47-0

Posted: September 25, 2017 3:59 p.m.
Updated: September 26, 2017 1:00 a.m.

MARRIQUE SIMON ... 4 TDs in NC win

There were plenty of check marks on North Central’s side of the ledger heading into Friday’s game at Great Falls.

First off, the visiting Knights were regaining the services of senior starting quarterback Bubba Williamson, who missed the team’s 28-0 loss to Andrew Jackson the previous week while in concussion protocol.

Second, the host Red Devils entered their homecoming contest in the midst of a 14-game losing skid which included a 46-0 loss to North Central last season.

Not part of the list of reasons why NC entered this contest as the favorite was MarRique Simon, a sophomore tailback who received nary a carry in the loss to the Volunteers. Simon made up for that absence on Friday.

Led by Simon rushing for nearly 200 yards and four trips into the end zone, the Knights snapped a three-game winless skein by blasting Great Falls, 47-0.

The win gave Tyronne Drakeford’s squad a 2-3 record as they seek their first Region 4-AA win in two outings this Friday at Lee Central. This Friday night contest also provided the backdrop as a coming out party for Simon.

“He’s a young kid who I tried to get going during the summertime and the early part of this season to get his mindset right,” said the first year NC boss of Simon who ran for three touchdowns and caught another. “I knew that he’s a real talented young man and I didn’t want him to lose his confidence because he was playing behind a senior in Patrick Carter. When he got his opportunity to shine, MarRique definitely took advantage of it.

“MarRique had an outstanding game and, obviously, when you have a game like that, you are looking for those kind of results every week.”

It was a 65-yard Simon touchdown run on the night’s first series which provided the visitors all the points they would need in a contest in which the Knights held a 20-0 halftime advantage. Simon would add another score before the break. The first half also included a three-yard Williamson to Avante’ Reynolds scoring toss which came after freshman Shyheem Shropshire picked off a GF pass at his own 38 and returned it 62 yards for the touchdown.

Simon’s breakout night, which included a 19-yard catch of a Williamson pass along the line of scrimmage which Simon ran in for a touchdown, came as Drakeford and his offensive staff decided to lighten the load on Carter, who is also an every down player in the secondary.

“We were trying to not utilize so many of our guys who were going both ways,” Drakeford said. “With Patrick playing every snap on defense, we were trying to limit his plays on offense and it just so happened that MarRique was playing so well that we didn’t want to take him out of the game and he ended up with a very big night for us.”

Along with Simon’s offensive explosion, Williamson had three scoring passes on his return to the lineup. 

In addition to his scoring hookup with Simon, Williamson found Tyler Faulkenberry with a three-yard slant route in the end zone while teaming up with Tyreek Jenkins on a 42-yard slip screen scoring pass on which the 6-foot-5, 240-pounder shrugged off a defender at the 15.

Drakeford said his entire offense came to life with Williamson in control.

“It was a lot smoother when you have a senior quarterback, a guy like Bubba, who has been around and who has all the attributes that you are looking for in a starting high school quarterback,” Drakeford said. “I think our guys felt more comfortable because we had our leader back and he was able to make some plays. It definitely made the night a whole lot easier.”

After a game at AJ in which the Knights were held to minus (-20) yards rushing, the NC staff placed plenty of emphasis on working with the offensive line during the week. It paid off on Friday.

“The quarterbacks were taking a pounding and we couldn’t get our running game going,” Drakeford said. “But our line really stepped up their game and it’s the same thing as with our tailback. Now that they’ve shown that, they have to do it week-in and week-out.”

The NC defense also got into the scoring act with a pair of touchdowns. While Shropshire had his pick six in the first half, D’mitri Robinson had a 16-yard fumble return for a touchdown in the second.

Linebacker Matthew Littlefield led the Knights with eight tackles with five behind the line of scrimmage including a sack. Faulkenberry registered five and a half tackles along with an interception and a fumble recovery.

“We had a really good night defensively,” Drakeford said. “I think we gave up less than 100 yards overall and we got three turnovers. Our guys were really flying around out there. The biggest thing that we’re trying to get into their heads is that if you understand what you’re doing and prepare during the week, then on Friday, you can go out, play and have fun. That’s what they did on Friday. They just went out there and made things happen.”

The win could not have come at a better time for a Knight squad which prepares for the short trip to Bishopville to take on a Lee Central squad which carries a 5-1 record and a 1-1 4-AA mark into the contest following their 41-21 win over Chesterfield on Friday.

“It was very big,” Drakeford said of the victory in Great Falls. “We needed some confidence seeing as we were on a three-game slide. To go up there and get a win against a pretty decent team puts us in the right frame of mind to get ready for our region game on Friday.”


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