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Knights taking on opportunistic BHS

Posted: October 12, 2017 1:38 p.m.
Updated: October 13, 2017 1:00 a.m.
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MARKELL PORTEE ...NC wide out

As he watches Buford game film, North Central head coach Tyronne Drakeford sees a Yellow Jacket team which seems to have it hands already on the door knob each time opportunity knocks.

Whether it has been a loose ball or a close play, Trip Watts’ squad seems to be Johnny on the spot. That is just a small part of the reason why the Jackets entertain NC sporting a 5-2 record in spite of having given up 34 more points than they have scored this season. On the flip side, the Knights have had more than their share of tough luck.

Tonight, in Lancaster County, Drakeford is hoping that the football gods will look favorably on his team which is seeking to stay in the hunt for a AA state playoff berth after having opened Region 4-AA play with three losses in as many league starts.

The first-year NC head coach said that Buford has had Lady Luck on its side but was quick to add that good teams usually make their own good fortune.

“They have gotten some good breaks but I think they are still a very good team, as well,” Drakeford said of the Yellow Jackets. “I think they’re explosive and I don’t think the game against Cheraw (a 62-0 BHS loss) indicates the type of talent they have.

“We’re going to have our hands full. I just want our guys to understand that we have a game that is winnable but at the same time, we can’t make a lot of mistakes and expect to win.”

The Knights know just how good Cheraw is. The Braves spoiled homecoming at North Central last week by breaking out what was a close game after the first quarter by outscoring the Knights, 35-7, over the final three stanzas.

In spite of falling to 0-3 in conference play, the Knights are not shutting the door on making a run for the postseason. Three wins in their final three games would all but certainly put NC in the state playoffs while two might get the job done. Either way, Drakeford said his team needs to take care of business tonight in order to be thinking playoffs.

“It’s like I told them after Friday night’s game,” Drakeford said of his post-game talk to his players, “even though we’ve lost three conference games, we’re fortunate in that if we win out, we can still make the playoffs. That’s our short term goal, to make the playoffs. Once you get in, it’s a whole new season and we’ll see what happens from there.”

Drakeford and his staff have preached to their players that a spot in the playoffs remains within reach. “You have to,” he said. “If there is no end goal, something you can’t obtain, you will lose the kids quickly. As long as we have that hope, we’ll keep stressing that. We just have to take care of business, one game at a time. and if we win, then we’ll think about the next game. 

“As long as there is something that you can attain and, that is making the playoffs, it keeps (the players’) interested, it keeps the coaches focused and we’ll be ready to better prepare every week.”

Buford returned to football prominence in the class A ranks in the late 1980s and early 90s when then head coach Ernie Hughes installed the Wing-T attack and the Yellow Jackets quickly began a string of winning campaigns. Hughes was then hired at Lugoff-Elgin but his successors at Buford stayed with the Wing-T offensive scheme for some 20 years. 

Things have now changed at Buford under Watts, who is in his fourth season at the helm. Gone are Hughes’ win ther battle in the trenches, three yards and a cloud of dust philosophy. Like many programs, the Yellow Jackets have shifted gears and have gone to the spread formation.

“They spread you out and they have some talented guys on the outside,” Drakeford said

In junior quarterback Ryan Moore, Buford has someone who can hurt a defense with his arm and with his legs. Keeping the six-foot, 160-pound signal-caller in check will be a priority for the NC defense. Besides Moore, tailback Javon Nicholson is a threat to go the distance each time he gets his hands on the football.

“If you watch their films,” Drakeford said of the Yellow Jackets, “you will see that Buford has some big guys up front who can move the defenders and they have some skill guys who can catch the ball. I love their running back (Nicholson.) He’s very athletic and plays defense, as well.

“Our focus is going to be that we’re going to try and man up on the outside, have a ‘spy’ on the quarterback so he can’t get out of the pocket and see how that turns out.”

On defense, Buford will line up in either a 4-3 or, 4-4 look and will try and bring pressure on NC quarterback Bubba Williamson from the edge. “Bubba is going to have to be able to step up (in the pocket) so that he can make his passes and get it to his receivers downfield,” Drakeford said.One problem which the Knights have been having is coming away with points once their offense gets into the red zone. NC had the chance to tie Cheraw last week after driving deep into Braves’ territory only to come away with no points to show for it.“If we get in the red zone, we have to be able to come away with points; either a field goal or, a touchdown,” Drakeford said of his team’s trouble once inside the opposition’s 20 yard line. “Our main focus this week has been trying to finish drives off. Hopefully, we’ll get some of those breaks that other teams have been getting and we can score early and put a little pressure on them.“We just have to play our game. Our guys have to play smart and our coaches have to coach smart. We all just have to work together.”

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