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Drakeford, North Central refusing to look past struggling Panthers

Posted: August 29, 2018 2:07 p.m.
Updated: August 31, 2018 1:00 a.m.
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AVANTE’ REYNOLDS ... NC quarterback

One of the perks/problems with social media is that nothing is a secret anymore.

Take high school football, for instance. Years ago, a coach could hide something about an upcoming opponent from his team and build that squad up to be the 1967 Green Bay Packers. In this world of everything being an open book, there is little chance of an adult bluffing a media-savvy group of teenagers.

For North Central and second-year head coach Tyronne Drakeford, the numbers on McBee are there for the entire world to see. The class A Panthers, who will head to Boonetown tonight, have struggled to an 0-2 start and have been outscored by a combined 92-12 by 4-AA entries Andrew Jackson and Chesterfield.

Drakeford, however, knows not to take an opponent lightly. Even though his Knights are coming off a 33-8 win over Columbia, he understands his team has not arrived and that the road to that goal continues at home tonight against a Johnny Kline-coached group which may or may not have their starting quarterback in the lineup

“What I see from McBee is a talented team that is just young,” Drakeford said. “Their starting quarterback (Tyrece Wright) got hurt in the first game and did not play last week. I think he is one of the top players that we will face if he plays. 

“This kid is really good. I hope he comes back to play but, if he doesn’t come back this Friday, I wouldn’t be disappointed.”

Drakeford called Wright a “game changer” who, if on the field, will stress an NC defense which pitched a shutout over the final two-plus quarters a week ago. Whoever gets the start behind center for McBee tonight, said the NC boss, the Knights have to be on their toes on defense but even moreso should Wright be calling the signals.

“We understand that from the defensive standpoint,” Drakeford said, “that we have to make sure that our gap responsibilities are taken care of and our guys on the outside cannot let them get out there on us so they can create big plays.

“Our primary concern is stopping the quarterback and making sure that we don’t let him do too much.”

The Knights are preparing as if Wright will be back tonight but should he not be a go tonight, Drakeford said his backup is more than capable.

“He’s talented, as well, he’s just not the same as (Wright),” Drakeford said. “We’re going to be aware of what they can do no matter who plays (on Friday.) We still have to get after people and we have to control our lanes.”

In last Friday’s victory over the Capitals, the NC defense allowed their guests 195 yards on 55 snaps with 130 of those coming on 38 rushing attempts. Drakeford said he would like for those numbers to be cut by a defense which, for the first time in three games, should not be outsized by a larger offensive line as they were against Camden and Columbia.

The key to that goal is for the Knights to do a better job of bringing ball carriers to the ground.

“We have to tackle,” Drakeford said. “One of the things we haven’t done really well, so far, is tackle. We have to have guys flying to the ball to help compensate for those missed tackles.”

Under Kline, the Panthers have gone away from their favored wishbone offensive scheme. McBee has gone to the spread set. Defensively, the Panthers operate out of a 3-5 set which will being their linemen and try and control the gaps for their linebackers to make plays.

NC’s offense came around late in last week’s contest as that unit scored 19 fourth quarter points. Senior quarterback Avante’ Reynolds threw for three touchdowns while Portee caught three scoring passes. Freshman tailback Seantrell Davis-Warren also went for 77 yards on a dozen carries as the passing game opened up the ground attack.

Drakeford said he hopes his team will be able to pick up where they left off last Friday and extend their win streak to two games.

“Obviously,” he said, “we want to take care of business and get a win. It’s a home game and like I told my kids, we want to win all our home games. If we can do that, we’ll be in good shape.

“We have to eliminate the mistakes we’ve been making and keep plugging along. If we can do that, take it one play at a time and keep the enthusiasm we have from this past Friday and take that into this Friday, I think we’ll be fine.”

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