Jamborees are hardly the occasion to show a conference opponent your playing hand. But after watching Buford grind its way to 50 yards in an 11-snap opening drive, North Central head coach Louis Clyburn had no other choice than to switch into game mode.
Fearing his offense would not get the ball for any measureable length of time, Clyburn scrapped the vanilla-tinged defensive strategy for an alignment more along the line of what the Knights will employ in the regular season. The result was a 12-6 win over Region 4-AA colleague Buford in Friday’s second game of the 39th annual Camden Shrine Club Football Jamboree at Zemp Stadium.
“We started calling a few defenses instead of just playing base,” Clyburn said of his defensive adjustments on in a 24-minute contest in which Buford rushed for 125 yards on 21 carries. “We try to play base in a jamboree. We played vanilla a lot, but our defense stunts; it’s what we do and that’s where our comfort zone is for our kids. I told Coach (Guy) Eckenroth that we don’t want to show a bunch tonight, but at the same time we had to make some changes.”
Buford took the ball to open the game and marched from its own 30 to the NC 20 before a hit from Knight defensive back Jay Parks on Buford’s Isaah Nesbitt on first and 10 dislodged the football which was recovered at the 10 yard line by NC defensive back Zack Jones.
After taking over following a punt at their own 43 following NC’s first possession, the Yellow Jackets went right back to work with quarterback Scotti Moser finding Evan Flynn in the flat for a gain of 25 to the NC 32. The guests went to the well once too often as Moser’s next pass, on which he rolled to his right, was picked off by NC sophomore Cedric Cunningham at his own 24. The Richland Northeast transfer then took off in front of the BHS bench for a 76-yard interception return for a touchdown and a 6-0 Knight lead with 3:38 showing on the first quarter clock.
Buford found more trouble in the passing lanes on its next possession. On third and six from their own 44, the Jackets were victimized again as Moser’s throw was intercepted by Hunter Wyant at his own 40.
With decent field position for the first time, NC quarterback John Bowers called his own number and went for 11 yards to the BHS 44.Two snaps later, on third and eight from the 42, Bowers found Parks on a bubble screen which the senior turned into a 34-yard gain to the Yellow Jacket eight. On first and goal, Bowers tucked the ball away and went in virtually untouched on an eight-yard bootleg as the Knights went on top, 12-0, with 2.9 ticks left in the first quarter clock.
Cunningham’s pick six seemed to loosen up the NC bench on a night in which Clyburn left the play-calling and defensive calls to his assistant coaches.
“I told the guys tonight that I was turning the coaching staff loose and turned the team over to them,” Clyburn said. “They have done great job. I was the (play) signaler and the water boy tonight.
“Our coaches did a great job in calling the offense and doing different stuff and we loosened it up with our quarterback running the ball, a little bit, which is going to be a luxury for us this season.”
Buford would avert the shutout on the ensuing possession in which Moser directed an 11-play scoring march capped by Flynn’s nine-yard scoring scamper on a toss sweep with 6:06 left in the game.
The Knights closed this one out thanks to the legs of sophomore DeAunte Samuel and freshman Patrick Carter who combined to rush for 57 yards in the final drive with Samuel going for a team-best 39 yards on five hauls while Carter’s 15-yard carry on fourth and one from midfield sealing the deal.
“We were just glad to play under the lights,” Clyburn said of what he wanted to get out of this night. “We have a lot of work to do before we play C.A. Johnson (this) Friday night.”