North Central at East Clarendon
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.
2014 Records: NC: 2-0; EC: 0-1
Series record: NC leads, 1-0
Last meeting: NC, 28-6, in 2014
The Skinny: The host Wolverines are under the leadership of Scott Cook, who is in his first season as the school’s head football coach and athletic director after having been the head baseball coach at Johnsonville High school for 14 years. Cook took over from Dwayne Howell, who retired after the 2014 season after having been EC’s head football coach for 26 years … North Central picked off a school-record four passes in last Friday’s 42-22 win over Timmonsville with Cedrick Cunningham having a pair of interceptions while DaShon Bethea and Marquis Barnes had one each with Belton’s going for a 53-yard pick six … In addition to rushing for 68 yards and a pair of touchdowns, NC junior DeAunte Samuel also led the Knights with eight tackles … East Clarendon has not won more than six football games in one season since a 10-win campaign in 1998.
If you’re going: Take US 521 South before turning left US-378 East. After traveling 22.3 miles, take a slight left onto Main Street in Turbeville. After traveling 0.2 miles, turn right onto the second cross street onto Green Street. Turn left at the first cross street to Pope Street and to East Clarendon High School.
eading to tonight’s North Central game at East Clarendon? Your car engine might still be warm when you return to your vehicle for the trip home.
At least that is the way the host Wolverines and first-year head coach Scott Cook would like to have things work out.
In last week’s 16-14 season-opening loss at Green Sea Floyds, East Clarendon threw the football just once in 52 snaps and that attempt fell to the ground. Suffice to say the plan of attack for EC and first-year head coach Scott Cook’s are to line up in the wishbone formation and try and ram the football down the throat of the defense while chewing up large portions of the game clock in the process.
Against GSF, that strategy worked to a point. But the Wolverines’ 203 rushing yards resulted in just one first quarter and a third quarter touchdown.
Suffice to say, when the North Central offense has the football it has to cash in on its chances as Knights’ head coach Louis Clyburn said that group’s opportunities could be few and far between this evening as the program looks for its first 3-0 start to a season since 1993.
“When you are facing the wishbone and when you’re on offense,” said the seventh-year NC head coach, “you have to take advantage of every possession.
“This isn’t going to be an eight- or 10-possession ballgame. We’ll get the ball one, at the most two, times a quarter and, depending on how it goes, that will probably be three times a half. They are going to maintain that clock with their offense and the only way you can combat that is that you have to score when you have the ball and then, you have to force turnovers and get three and outs on defense.”
In last week’s 42-22 win over Timmonsville, the Knights were better than good in forcing turnovers as their secondary picked off a school-record four passes while bringing one of those back for their second pick six in as many games.
Should NC force the Wolverines to have to throw the football, it would probably mean that the visitors’ offense is making good on their limited possessions.
While EC did not look up top but once in week one, Clyburn said that the Wolverines showed they can break out of the wishbone and let quarterback William Ard, who scored both his team’s touchdowns at GSF, makes plays with his throwing arm as well as his legs. NC has proof of that in watching film from EC in two jamborees.
“They will break the bone every now and again and show you some different things, which they did in their jamborees. We have to be alert and ready for that,” Clyburn said.
“They’ve played one ballgame and they didn’t throw the ball a lot. We are going to have to stop the play action pass. I can assure you that they won’t go through game two without attempting a pass or, some sort of play action with some different type of alignment like an overload set. We’re going to have to be alert for some type of adjustment that they’re going to make whether it’s a new formation or play action passes. Our defense is going to have to think on their feet a little bit.”
While the Wolverines have shown the ability to throw the ball, it will only be as a last resort. And for that to happen, the Knight defense has to take the fight to the hosts.
“When you play a wishbone team,” Clyburn said, “if you don’t stop the run, they will keep running the ball. If you look at teams around the state that run the wishbone effectively, if you don’t stop it they are not going to stop running it.
“We also have to be ready and alert for them to go to the pass, play action or spread it out. Our number one goal, our objective, is to stop the run. (Ard) is a really good player. He manages that offense well and when he pulls the ball and runs with it, he’s a threat. They have athletes who we are going to have to contain.”
For as well as EC ran the football last week, its defense allowed 236 yards on the ground to a GSF team which did not win a game in 2014. That could be a good thing for the Knights who now have a two-pronged running attack in juniors Cedrick Cunningham and DeAunte Samuel. Cunningham went for 102 yards and two touchdowns against Timmonsville while Samuel added another 68 yards on the ground with two trips into the end zone.
The Wolverines will line up in a four-man defensive front which the Knights have seen throughout the pre-season and through the first two games of the regular season. The NC receivers went up against press coverage from the THS secondary while in the week zero win over C.A. Johnson, they faced a blitzing scheme. Tonight, Clyburn expects to see a combination of the two from EC which will blitz and stunt while playing one safety in the secondary.
While Cook and his staff have brought a new energy to the Wolverine program, Clyburn said little else has changed in the EC program after the retirement of Dwayne Howell.
“They were a well-coached team last year and you can see that this new staff has come in and is doing the same thing,” Clyburn said. “They are fundamentally sound; you don’t see them making many very big mistakes.
“They are never lined up wrong and they do a good job of maintaining the line of scrimmage. We’ve challenged our defensive and offensive lines to win the line of scrimmage. I think it’s going to be one of those ballgames. We have to block and tackle at the line of scrimmage.”
If the Knights do as Clyburn and his staff wishes, they will leave Clarendon County with a 3-0 record and get a much-anticipated week off with their having a week three bye.
“Any time you have a week off,” Clyburn said, “it’s always great to have a good taste in your mouth going into that bye week. It’s easier for coaches and players to practice that week because you feel like you know what you are doing and you can take momentum into the (Lewisville) game.
“We’re a little banged up with some little nagging injuries. We need to get healthy so that bye week is going to come at a good time. But going into the bye week off a win would be huge for our team and for the coaches.”