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Knights riding high into Chesterfield

Posted: October 4, 2018 11:29 a.m.
Updated: October 5, 2018 1:00 a.m.


These are heady times, indeed, at North Central with the Knights having polished off Central, 41-21, last week to improve to 2-1 in Region 4-AA play.

Last Friday’s win came on the heels of a victory over rival Andrew Jackson 16 days earlier as NC sits a half-game behind Buford (3-0 in 4-AA) in the race for the conference title. Having a pair of emotional wins at their backs leaves the Knights flying high while their second-year head coach, Tyronne Drakeford, is rightly concerned about a letdown in preparation for tonight’s road game in Chesterfield.

“We feel real good,” Drakeford said of his team’s confidence level, “but at the same time, we don’t want to get too high because we know that we have quite a few games left and that we have to take care of business. 

“Again, we’re going into this game focused and knowing that it will be a challenge on the defensive side of the football because they have some good wide receivers that can get down the field and catch the ball. We just have to play smart, make our tackles and on offense, we have to control the ball.”

Against Central, NC quarterback Austin Bowers shook off an early interception, for the second straight game, and was lights out after that. The junior finished hitting 14 of his 21 passes for 254 yards and three touchdowns. All the scoring tosses went to senior wide out Markell Portee, who finished the game with seven catches for 183 yards.

Getting Bowers in a comfortable groove is something which Drakeford said helps his team and is what he hopes to see again tonight and, beyond.

“We want Austin to start fast but even when he doesn’t that’s OK,” Drakeford said. “He’s getting a lot more confident back there and a lot more comfortable with the offensive scheme that we’re running. He’s starting to check to different things and when he finds a one-on-one situation, he’s exploiting it.”

In each of their past two wins, the Knights trailed early after a miscue of their own doing. The fact that his team did not push the panic button either time shows the maturity which this team is playing with

“What has really helped tremendously from a team standpoint is that, at first, we thought that we had to be front-runners. Now, we’re starting to feel ourselves to where we think that we’re a pretty good ballclub and that we can play with a lot of teams,” Drakeford said.

“Even if we make a mistake, we can overcome it. That’s what we’re starting to do. Our defense can create turnovers and can put our offense in a good position where they can get some easy scores.”

Drakeford expects his defense, which has forced six turnovers the past two games, to be tested by a pass-first Chesterfield offensive attack which averages better than 27 points a game. Sophomore quarterback Josh Adams has already topped the 1,000-yard passing mark for the season while throwing a dozen touchdowns. His favorite targets are Shyheim Rivers (19 catches for 423 yards and five TDs) and Ricky Lockhart (20-389-4 TDs).

The air raid offense which former head coach Steve Taneyhill brought to Chesterfield in 2004 remains.

“They’re pretty much the same as they have been. They have a talented offense and they can make plays,” Drakeford said. “Our thing is that if we don’t give up big plays, I think we’ll be fine. We just have to make sure that when their guys catch the ball that we’re there to make tackles and, also, try and create turnovers like we did last week.”

In their three losses, the Golden Rams’ defense allowed 135 points including 52 hung up by Buford. Drakeford said Chesterfield is playing better than that in having won its last two outings.

“They are going to try and blitz us,” Drakeford said. “Our front line has to hold up and be ready for when they do their stunts. We have to communicate and protect the quarterback. More importantly, we have to get our run game going.”

What the Knights will not have this week is the home crowd backing them. What Drakeford said his team needs to bring are those items which can carry a team to a road win.

“We don’t have that safe haven of being home this week,” he said. “When you’re on the road, you have to pack your defense and your special teams. That’s what we’re planning on doing.”


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