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Knights eager to get back on level ground against Caps

Posted: August 22, 2018 1:12 p.m.
Updated: August 24, 2018 1:00 a.m.
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TANNER STEPHENS ... NC offensive tackle

There was no second-guessing for North Central after the Knights and their coaching staff reviewed the film from last Friday’s 38-0 loss to Camden.

NC head coach Tyronne Drakeford said the tape did not lie but was quick to point out his team did enough things well to be more successful when they play a team their own size rather than a AAA program like the Bulldogs.

That chance comes tonight as NC opens its home campaign by entertaining Columbia in a 7:30 p.m. start at Knights Stadium in Boonetown.

While Camden two-platoons, Columbia --- which has moved back down into the AA ranks after two years in AAA --- has several players who start on both sides of the football. That, Drakeford said, will be the case for most of his team’s nine remaining regular season games.

“They have a lot of guys going both ways,” he said of the Capitals. “That’s one of the main things I was preaching to our team that, moving forward, there are no more Camdens and everybody we play is going to be similar to us and the best team is going to win on those Friday nights.”

Before the Knights could look ahead to game two, they first had to go back and watch the good and bad in the game video from the Camden contest. Drakeford said his coaching staff used the film session as a learning tool which led to a good week of practice. 

“Obviously, (our players) were disappointed because we think we have a pretty good team. We hate to lose but we’re realists; we have to understand that Camden was the better team on Friday night,” he said.

“After we watched that film, we got ready for Columbia and the things they do. We saw the things we made mistakes on and how we’re going to correct them in practice so that, come Friday night, we don’t make those same mistakes again.”

One of main points of emphasis in Boonetown this week was cashing in on offensive chances when they are presented. Against Camden, the Knights had the ball inside the Bulldogs’ 23 yard line on three separate occasions in the first half and came away with nothing to show for it. On the third of those possessions, NC got to the CHS two only to be pushed back and have a field goal try blocked.

Before that game, Drakeford said he wanted his team to play fast, score early and have a chance to win the game in the final quarter. The missed opportunities in the first 24 minutes all but squashed that momentum.

“When we get in the red zone, we have to find a way to score. We have to protect when we kick a field goal so we don’t get kicks blocked. We have to keep executing and stick to our game plan and go play football,” Drakeford said.

“When we were fresh, we were good,” he added. “If we score early and get off to a fast start, even if you’re tired because you have guys going both ways, you still have that momentum, that energy, to want to continue to play. Like I told the kids after the game, we played against the best teams that we’re going to play against all year. Camden has a lot to look forward to this year but, I think, we’re a lot better than a 38-0 defeat.”

While the Knights became worn down by Camden’s depth in the second half, Columbia was winning a 40-34 shootout against in-city rival and AAA entry, Keenan, in a game played at Benedict College. NC faced and had its way with Keenan in a scrimmage two weeks ago. That being the case, Drakeford said he knew the type of competition Columbia faced in its opener.

The Capitals received several big individual performances a week ago with running back Thomas Green rushing for 243 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries. He also caught two passes from scrappy quarterback Jordan Puch for 40 yards including a touchdown. Puch hooked up with wide out Jaylin Broadnax on an 81-yard touchdown pass with 2:46 left to give the Capitals the victory.

“The biggest thing about Columbia is that they have a big offensive line. If I’m not mistaken, they average about 290 across the front line. That is a huge line for a AA program,” Drakeford said. “They have a skilled running back and a skilled wide receiver. We’re going to have our hands full.”

The Caps are expected to line up in the spread with an H-back on offense. While Puch is a good passer, the visitors will try and establish Green and the running game and play to their size and power up front. “They will try to pound you with their big offensive linemen,” Drakeford said. “We’re hoping they can’t get to our second level, which is our linebackers, which is the strength of our defense right now. If (the CHS linemen) can’t get there, our guys can get into the holes and make tackles and try to limit their run game and force them to pass the ball.”

As for his own offense, Drakeford said he expects both Avante’ Reynolds and Austin Bowers to play quarterback tonight in order to change the tempo while also giving Reynolds, a starter on defense, a break from time to time.

More than anything, Drakeford said his team is excited to be playing at home, moving on from the season-opening loss and getting their season headed in the right direction.

“We’re looking forward to this week against Columbia and the rest of our season because, I think, we’ve prepared ourselves to get ready for these next nine games and then, hopefully, for the playoffs,” he said.

“We have to get off to a fast start, especially at home. We have to take care of business. More important, when we have opportunities to score, we have to score. That’s one of the things that we have stressed in practice. 

“We are in prime position to make a good run at this thing.”

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