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Clyburn, Knights see opportunities against Chesterfield

Posted: October 1, 2010 4:25 p.m.
Updated: October 1, 2010 4:23 p.m.

While it is not exactly a case of the dark knight being dead, in this instance, he has a couple of chinks in his armor.

In their first four seasons under Steve Taneyhill, Chesterfield never lost more than three games in one season. Now, the three-time defending class A Division I champions have lost their past three games.

Tonight, North Central heads to meet the Golden Rams in hopes of extending that skid to an even four games. And before you snicker, Knights’ head coach Louis Clyburn said that in watching CHS on film, his team feels better about their possible chances for an upset this time around than they have in past seasons.

“Last year, it was hard to look at the film and say, ‘Well, we can do this well against them,’ because we hadn’t seen anybody else who was able to do that well against them,” said the second-year NC head coach. “This year, when we look at the film, we say, ‘Hey, there’s Scott’s Branch doing this against them. We can do that.’ That helps and is something that we can, hopefully, take advantage of.”

Like their hosts, the Knights are also mired in a three-game slide including last week’s 49-7 loss to Indian Land. But tonight marks the start of play in Region 3-A, and for both sides, it is a new beginning to the season and a chance to start making up for a rocky beginning of the campaign.

“We’ve been selling the five-game season to our guys,” Clyburn said. “These last five games are going to determine whether we get into the playoffs, or not. These last five games, depending on where you finish in your conference, will really give you a boost for getting into the playoffs. The bracket we’re in is pretty tough, but these kids need a goal and we’ve set that goal, which is, ‘Let’s win these last five games.’

“There’s no reason why these kids should go into any of these last five ballgames and think that they don’t have a chance to win. We’ve tried to pump them full of confidence. We’ve done some new stuff in terms of our attitude; we’re going to be more aggressive on defense, more aggressive on offense and more aggressive in the kicking game. We’re going to go out and have fun.”

With that in mind, the NC staff has stripped down the playbook. After breaking down game films and see what has and what has not worked, those schemes which did not were scrapped while those which did were kept and were, in some cases, modified. The new strategy has been embraced by the players.

“It’s a new attitude with the same stuff,” Clyburn said. “What we’re getting the kids to do is stuff that we’ve already done, we’re just taking a different approach with it. Our kids are excited about it and they’re comfortable with it.”

As for the Golden Rams, Clyburn said they do not have as many weapons as they had a year ago, but they still present a more than formidable challenge. CHS has played a demanding schedule and its three losses have to come Anson County (N.C.) and powerful entries Scott’s Branch and Central.

NC has faced a trio of AA entries in its past three games. Clyburn said both sides are anxious to get back to feeling good after a game.

“We have a win under our belt and we’ve played well, at times. Now, we have to build on that,” he said. “I’m sure Coach Taneyhill’s telling his guys the same thing. They’ve won a lot of football games over there the past four or five years. They’re probably trying to build off that and not dwell on what happened last week against Central.

One thing which Taneyhill and company do not possess this season is a defense which could win games on its own, with limited help from what was an explosive offense.

“To say that their defense was good last year would be an understatement. Their defense was suffocating last year,” Clyburn said. “It was unbelievable how fast they were. Their defense led their team.

“They’re relying a little more on their offense. They’re running the ball more and trying to control the clock more than they did in the past. This year, they’re relying more on their running game to try and set the tempo. That’s something that we’re looking at and trying to figure out what we can take advantage of.”

Since both offenses and defenses are built on the same principles and schemes, Clyburn said this was a smooth week of practice for his troops which did not have to learn and/or adjust to a different offense and/or defense. He said what his team cannot afford to do tonight is think about which former CHS standouts, who hurt the Knights in the past, are not on this year’s team. In fact, Clyburn told his squad not to think about the past, at all.

“Our kids need to focus on what’s going on on that field and on what we need to do out there (tonight.) We can’t worry about who is not playing for them anymore,” he said. “I think our kids are excited about this game. I think they’re ready to attack, go battle and then, see what happens.”

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