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Knights eclipsed by Vols, 42-14

Posted: September 10, 2011 1:26 p.m.
Updated: September 12, 2011 5:00 a.m.
C-I photo by Tom Didato/

NORTH CENTRAL LINEBACKER Myles Dunham grabs hold of AJ quarterback Gavin Clyburn as the senior recorded a sack in first quarter action from Friday’s game in Boonetown.

Just when it looked like North Central was going to make its move against rival Andrew Jackson, the Volunteers came up with a trump card.

In an 18-second stretch of one-upmanship, AJ countered a 58-yard NC touchdown strike with one of 73 yards on the next snap to turn a 28-14 lead into a 35-14 advantage in the waning seconds of the third quarter. The play took the wind out of the hosts’ sails as the Vols left North Central Stadium with a 42-14 victory.

The loss was the third in as many outings for Louis Clyburn’s troops. AJ won for the second time in four days to improve to 2-1 on the season.

In a game in which the Knights jumped out to an early 7-0 lead before the Volunteers scored the next 28 points, it appeared that the visitors would be content to sit on their lead and play this game out in a conservative mode. That all changed with one play.

After NC’s Omar Johnson recovered an AJ fumble at his own 42, the Knights used a 58-yard wheel route pass from quarterback Grayson King to tailback Clarence Williams to cut the lead in half. The speedy Williams found himself covered by a linebacker and took full advantage of the mismatch to make it a 28-14 game with 34.6 seconds left in the third quarter.

The wave of momentum which swept through the NC sideline would dissipate soon thereafter as on first and 10 from their own 27, the Vols used a 73-yard scoring strike from Ryan Phillips to Bobby Delly, who went between and over a pair of defenders to make the grab which stuck a dagger into NC’s comeback hopes with 16.6 ticks left in the third quarter clock.

Later, Clyburn said his team never should have been in the position to have to crawl back from a 21-point second half deficit.

"It was a game of momentum and we never could get it back after we took the (7-0) lead," he said. "In the second quarter, we had some chances. We took a knee on a punt and instead of being 21-14, it goes to 28-7. Then, right before the half, they got some pressure on our quarterback and we throw an interception. It should have been 28-14 at the half."

On a near-perfect night for early September football, NC piled up 370 yards in offense on 72 snaps, nearly split evenly between the ground and the air game. The Knights’ undoing came, in part, due to four turnovers which contributed to 14 AJ points, while another error led to a third touchdown.

Clyburn said the difference in the game came down to AJ coming up with big plays while his team failed to capitalize on the chances which were provided them.

"I have to challenge my players. There were plays there that had to be made and we’re not making them," he said. "We have some guys who have to grow up and take responsibility and, that goes for coaches, too. I’m putting everybody on the line.

"We have to be responsible and take some ownership. Right now, we’re not doing that but we’re going to next week, I can promise you that.

"We have the ability to win every game on our schedule. Tonight, we had a chance to get back in and win this game in the second and in the third quarters and we didn’t; we didn’t because we didn’t make plays."

NC did not cash in on its first chance when a fumble by AJ’s Chris White, on the game’s first play, was recovered by the Knights’ Chris Vasquez at midfield. The march fizzled when AJ held on a fourth and three from its own 22.

The Knights would put together a well-executed drive the next time they got the football on a march which opened from their own 17.

On first down, King found Austin Furman for a gain of 11. One snap later, Williams broke loose on a 30-yard carry to the Vols’ 41. After an 11-yard King-to-Raijon Jones completion set up a third and three from the 34, Tavarus Porter banged his way for eight yards and a first down at the 26.

Porter, who would leave the game in the fourth quarter with a leg injury, would go for nine yards on fourth and two from the 18. He then went into the end zone from there to cap an 11-play journey. Alan Estrada tacked on the PAT kick and with 4:23 showing on the first quarter clock, NC had jumped to a 7-0 lead.

The first miscue of the night for the hosts came when Gavin Clyburn picked off an NC pass at midfield with 2:43 left in the opening stanza. A 25-yard Jarvaris Clyburn run was followed by a 23-yard bootleg run around left end by Phillips which evened things at 7-7 with 1:3 to go in the first quarter.

Following an NC three-and-out, the Vols marched 55 yards in seven plays with Phillips finding 6-foot-4 wide out Quadarius Farr, who made a one-handed grab in the end zone for the touchdown and a 14-7 lead at the 10:42 marker of the second quarter.

The guests extended their lead to 21-7 when they used a short --- 33 yards --- field and two of NC’s 14 penalties on the night to get to the one. On fourth and goal from there, Phillips bulled his way into the end zone to make it 21-7 with 7:44 to go before intermission.

While not officially a turnover, a low snap to Estrada on a punt led to his knee hitting the ground at his own 10. Three plays later, AJ was in the end zone with Farr somehow getting his feet in bounds in the back of the end zone to haul in a 13-yard pass from Gavin Clyburn for a 28-7 lead with 6:06 left in the first half.

Clyburn said Farr was a mismatch nightmare, given that he was some seven inches taller than his Knight defender. "We definitely had some size problems with their receivers," he said.

The Knights had one last chance before the break to trim the deficit when they took over at their own 40 following a punt with 88 seconds left in the half. On first down, King found Porter on a wheel route which turned into a 32-yard gain. The drive ended thanks to a Quincey Grier interception in the end zone, which he returned for a 103-yard touchdown, only to be whistled back due to a block in the back on the play.

The wheel route was one which was good to NC all night.

"With our offense, I don’t care what kind of defense that you play, there are certain routes that are going to be open," Clyburn said.

"They played a little different coverage than they did when we watched them on tape and once we identified that in the first quarter, there were routes which we could attack them with and it was the wheel route. We took advantage of that as well as the hitch route, which is always there.

"If we do the things that we need to do and throw the ball and the pass is on time it will work."

Needing a spark, NC used an 18-yard run by Estrada on a fake punt to pick up a first down at its own 49 on the first series of the second half. King then found a sliding Anthony Spinelli over the middle with a 12-yard strike. But an incompletion on fourth and six from the 35 turned the ball back to the Vols.

"In the second and third quarters, the field situation is what got us," Clyburn said of his team being put in tough positions on offense thanks to the booming kicks and punts of Brett Lucas and Tyler Denkins, respectively. "We gave them good field position and we didn’t have good field position. The field position battle got us for the second week in a row.

"We have to figure out a way to win the field position battle."

Until the turnover which led to King’s scoring toss to Williams, AJ appeared content to play out the string. It showed it still had some tricks up its sleeve by answering with the 73-yard scoring bomb to Delly.

The guests would go some window dressing late in the game when an NC fumble was recovered by Javaris Clyburn, who returned the loose ball 28 yards to the NC two with 5:52 left in the contest. On the first snap, Phillips called his own number and the quarterback snuck in for his third touchdown.

In a game which had more than its share of chippy moments, NC was whistled for 136 yards in infractions. The Knights were also called for six personal foul penalties which did not sit well, at all, with Clyburn who vowed that changes will be forthcoming.

"We played sloppy football in the fourth quarter … we’re not going to play like that," he said. "We had turnovers and penalties … we’re not going to be that way. A football team that I’m coaching is not going to be that undisciplined; that’s my fault and I take full responsibility for that."

Clyburn did strike a more positive note, when talking about the improvement his team has made from week-to-week.

"Every week, this team is getting better," he said. "We’re going to fight. We’re going to get better and we’re going to make the plays that we need to in order to win games."


Knight Lights:

King clicked on 12 of his 30 passes for 170 yards. Spinelli was on the receiving end of four of those aerials for 48 yards. Williams had three grabs for 65 while Furman had three catches for 14 yards … Porter led the way on the ground with 72 yards in 17 carries while Williams went for 51 yards on 10 hauls … AJ had 132 yards on 32 carries while the Phillips threw for 117 yards on a six-for-17 passing night. Jarvaris Clyburn led the ground game for the guests with 80 yards on 16 carries … The longest run from scrimmage came in the Knights’ final possession when sophomore back-up quarterback Tristan McCathern broke loose for a 34-yard gain.


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