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Knights face familiar challenge against high-flying Cheraw
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WILL MATHIS ... NC tight end

Cheraw at North Central

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.

Records:

Series record:

Last meeting:

The Skinny:

Tonight will mark Military Appreciation Night at North Central while kicking off a two-game homestand to close the regular season … All current and veteran military personnel will be honored during the course of the evening and will receive a raffle ticket and be included in a drawing only open to active or retired military. There will also be exhibits sponsored by the National Guard while the Knights will come out in camo-themed jerseys … Three of Cheraw’s losses have come to AAA (Darlington and Marlboro County) and 4A (River Bluff) programs … In four Region 4-AA games this season, the Braves have outscored the opposition by a combined 161-13 count.
CHS, 48-0, in 2005
CHS leads, 2-0
CHS: 4-4, 3-0 in 4-AA; NC: 4-4; 4-0 in 4-AA

Youth, like ignorance, can sometimes be bliss.

Louis Clyburn is hoping the youngsters on his North Central football team will turn a deaf eye or, a blind eye to most of what Cheraw has done since starting Region 4-AA play.

The Braves, who will come to Boonetown tonight, brushed aside an 0-3 start to their season by winning each of their four conference games by an average score of 40-3. Included in that figure is last week’s 57-0 win over Andrew Jackson.

The Knights, meanwhile, are coming into tonight’s pairing on the heels of a 20-6 loss to Indian Land as they fell to 2-2 in league play. In that game in Fort Mill last Friday, NC started a team of which half were either sophomores or freshmen.

Clyburn is hoping his young players will not concern themselves with Cheraw’s ripping run through conference foes or, the program’s successful history both in the AAA and AA ranks.

"We have this team of young kids and in some ways," Clyburn said, "that can be good. They don’t know that they should be intimidated by Cheraw. That is something which you look at positively."

In last week’s blitzing of Andrew Jackson, the Braves received a school-record performance from 6-foot-2, 190-pound wide receiver David Brown who amassed more than 270 receiving yards against the Volunteers. That is an eyebrow-raising figure regardless of the offensive scheme. But when you consider Cheraw is a wishbone-first offense, that number becomes even more impressive.

"They do a great job of going back and forth between the wishbone and the spread look to take advantage of their athletes," Clyburn said. It is in the spread, however, in which Brown thrived last week. When he is flanked wide, the NC defense needs to make him work for each catch and every yard.

"Game plan-wise, we’ve faced really good players before and that is what we’ve challenged our defense with this week," Clyburn said of defending Brown. "We’re going to do some doubling-up on him and make it hard for him to get open.

"We’re going to give their quarterback some different looks. We don’t ever just sit back and play, we pin our ears back and we’re going to make you have to defend different blitzes and different stunts. We’re going to be very aggressive.

"We’re going into this game not sitting back and being complacent. We’re going to go into this game attacking from the get-go."

This is hardly the first time in which the Knights have gone up against an elite athlete. A year ago, Fairfield Central had a bunch of those in a game in which NC hung in against the AA Division II finalist for better than three quarters before coming out on the short end of a 19-0 outcome.

Clyburn has used his team’s performance in that contest as a comparison for tonight’s game. Another thing which the NC staff has preached throughout the week is that the Knights can still get a prime AA Division II playoff slot with a strong closing run.

"I told our players that we’re still in a fortunate situation. We’re 2-2 in our conference and the only two teams ahead of us are Central (3-1) and Cheraw," Clyburn said. "We still, kind of, control our own destiny, so to speak, to finish in the top half of our conference; finish in second or third. You look at some of the things that have been happening every week and we’re going to take the attack attitude this week and throw our hat into the ring and see where we go.

"Cheraw has to do what they have to do and, I know it’s cliché, but we have to execute. If our players do the things well that we ask them to do, we’ll be OK."

As the Knights watched Cheraw on film, they have seen similar offenses to theirs give the Braves’ defense trouble. Clyburn said it will all come down to his team being able to play mistake-free football and execute the game plan.

"You look at the teams they’ve played; Marlboro County is similar to us in what they do and River Bluff, even though they are 4A, a lot of the offense that we have is from (current RB head coach) David Bennett when we went to visit him when he was the head coach at Coastal Carolina," said the NC boss.

"Comparatively, the teams Cheraw has struggled with, we can look at the film and see the similar things that we do and it encourages our kids. They can see the guys on River Bluff doing the things we do and having success. We’re excited about it."

With a large crowd expected to come to back Cheraw and the NC faithful coming out to back the Knights while also showing their support to present and retired military personnel on Military Appreciation Night in Boonetown, Clyburn said this is shaping up to be a special night.

"This one of the things that’s really neat when you play in tough football conference; Friday nights are special. It should be a great night," Clyburn said.

"We’re challenging our kids to cut it loose and not worry about making mistakes; just play hard and see where we end up."