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Knights looking to break another jinx in Boonetown
J.J. STEVENS ... NC defensive tackle

Timmonsville at North Central

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.

Records: THS: 0-1; NC: 1-0

Series record: THS leads, 5-3

Last meeting: THS, 36-28, in 2014

The Skinny: The host Knights will try for their first 2-0 start to a football campaign since winning their first two games of the 1993 season when they knocked off Indian Land and Andrew Jackson to get off to a 2-0 start … Timmonsville head coach Bill Tate is in his 41st season on the Whirlwinds’ sidelines. Over that time, he has led his teams to 317 victories, which ranks him fourth in the history of high school football in the Palmetto State trailing only John McKissick (594 wins), Willie Varner (383) and Pinky Babb (346) … North Central has played Timmsonsville three times in the A playoffs with the Whirlwinds ending the Knights’ season in 1996 and 2003 while NC ushered THS out of the post-season in 1997 … In last week’s 35-12 loss to Wilson, THS  had two blocked punts and another botched punt which led to 21 Tiger points.


As he looked over a clean stat sheet following his team’s season-opening 24-13 win over C.A. Johnson last Friday, North Central head football coach Louis Clyburn knocked on his wooden desk when the point was made that his team did not turn the ball over once in the Week Zero contest.

It continued a turnover-free trend which started in the scrimmages, through the Camden Shrine Club Jamboree and into the first game of the season. It is something which the Knights’ boss hopes to continue, at least, through tonight’s pairing with visiting Timmonsville in the home opener in Boonetown.

A week ago, NC kept the ball in its grasp for each of its 58 offensive snaps, continuing a theme of ball security which began in spring practice. A no-turnover game this evening would go a long way toward giving their Knights their first 2-0 start to a season in 22 years. 

But Clyburn warned it will take more than that to guarantee a victory over a Whirlwinds’ squad whose own turnovers and miscues on special teams proved costly in a 35-12 loss to AAA Wilson last Friday night in the Pee Dee.

“Their staff does a really good job and the score did not indicate how close that ballgame was,” Clyburn said of Timmonsville’s loss last Friday. “Timmonsville had some turnovers and created turnovers from Wilson. They had some breakdowns in the kicking game which a veteran staff like theirs is going to address.

“It was certainly a ballgame where when you looked at it, you said that Timmonsville certainly had their opportunities. If they didn’t turn the ball over, they probably make that a close ballgame into the fourth quarter.”

Conversely, the Knights were one to the good in the turnover battle last week. The one mistake C.A. Johnson made came when the NC pass rush forced a hurried throw which landed in the arms of Knights’ defensive back Delmarcus Wood, who picked off the pass at his own 48 and went in for a 52-yard interception return for a third quarter touchdown which gave the guests the 18-7 lead.

Clyburn said his defense must be able to create confusion for a young Whirlwind offense.

“We cannot make mistakes in the kicking game. We cannot turn the ball over and on defense,” he said, “we have to force them to make mistakes and create chaotic situations for their offense where they do turn the ball over. Those are the things that we have to do when we’re on defense.”

The Knight defenders will see two vastly different offensive schemes from the Whirlwinds tonight. The guests will line up in their long-favored wishbone formation before switching to the spread when the running game gets bottled up. That creates a unique set of circumstances for an NC defense which has seen and will see both those offenses during the course of the season. Clyburn said his team’s base defense is equipped to defend both formations.

“They’re in the wishbone one series and in the spread the next,” Clyburn said.

“Once we get to our region, we will see both those offenses. Cheraw is similar to Timmonsville in that they will run the wishbone and the spread. We will also have a situation where we play Andrew Jackson, which runs the spread, and then we play Buford which runs the Wing T.

“With the way our conference is set up, we’ve installed a defense where our kids know these automatic adjustments with these different formations. We’ve been practicing for this in the pre-season. Our kids will be prepared for what they will see (tonight.) It’s just a matter of our going out and making plays.”

While the Knights were error-free on offense last week, they did come away from that game with several bumps and bruises. Clyburn said he had players step up and come off the bench to perform well last week and many of those players will play large roles this evening.

As for the THS defense, the Whirlwinds made it tough for Wilson to move the ball on the ground last week as the Tigers netted 105 yards on 12 carries. But Wilson was able to pass its way for 160 yards with Deonta Johnson making two catches for 84 yards with one grab going for a 78-yard touchdown.

Sophomore Bubba Williamson received his first start under center for the Knights last Friday and he completed half his 24 passes for 174 yards. On the ground, NC rushed the ball 32 times for 143 yards with junior DeAunte Samuel going for a team-best 93 yards on 16 carries.

Clyburn said his offense must stay multi-dimensional to prevent a quick and athletic THS defense from walking the linebackers up along the line of scrimmage and trying to take away the running game.

The NC boss expects to see a more polished Whirlwind team tonight for the simple reason that they have the opening game jitters out of their system and any bugs they have were probably polished over by 41st year THS head coach Bill Tate and his staff in practice this week.

“When you talk about an experienced coaching staff, you won’t find any better than Coach Tate,” Clyburn said. “He is really a class act. We’re looking forward to this challenge. We have a chance to go 2-0 and we’ve challenged our kids, each and every week, to break it down into one-game seasons. Our motto is to go 1-0 this week.”

If this contest packs the same type of excitement of last season’s game in Timmonsville, Clyburn said, fans will be in for a treat. While the hosts came away with a 36-28 victory, it was not without some late-game drama provided by the Knights’ offense.

“Timmonsville and North Central have a long history. It was kind of neat to spark that rivalry between the two schools back up,” Clyburn said of the short but spirited series between the two programs.

“We had a shot to start well last season but we lost to C.A. Johnson and then had injuries start piling up, especially on the offensive line, against Timmonsville. 

“We were taking shots in the end zone late in this game a year ago. We had our two-minute drill going to try and tie the ballgame but we just came up short. We would score, they would score … it was one of those games that was fun to watch and we’re expecting that same type of ball game this week.

“You have two young teams who will be playing against each other on Friday. It will be a fun game to watch and to coach as we try to put these young players in position to be successful. It will be a fun night in Boonetown.”