North Central at Timmonsville
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.
2013 records: NC: 0-1; THS: 0-1
Series record: THS leads, 4-3
Last meeting: THS, 55-21, in 2003
The Skinny: The last three meetings between the Knights and Timmonsville came in the first round of the state class A playoffs in 1996, 1997 and 2003. The Whirlwinds ended NC’s season in 1996 and 2003 with the Knights doing the same to THS in 1997 … Legendary Whirlwinds’ head coach Bill Tate is in his 40th year on the Timmonsville sidelines and brings a 306-112 record into tonight’s contest. Tate has led the program to class A state titles in 1992 and 1999 while having guided the Whirlwinds to runner-up state class A finishes seven times including a 26-8 loss to Hunter-Kinard-Tyler in the 2013 class A Division II championship game.
If you’re going: Take I-20 East toward Florence. Take exit 131 to merge onto US-401 South. Turn left onto SC-403 South toward Timmonsville. After traveling 7.6 miles, turn right onto East Smith St. Take your first left into State Rd. South-21/South Warren St. Travel 0.6 miles and take your second right onto Kemper St. and to Timmonsville High School.
If imitation is, indeed, the sincerest form of flattery, North Central’s offense could see pressure coming from all across the field from the Timmonsville defense tonight when the nights make the trip to the Pee Dee for their second game of the season.
A week ago, in a 14-12 loss to C.A. Johnson, NC was down to its third center of the night. That forced Louis Clyburn’s troops to scrap its usual shotgun scheme, but only after several snaps led to the Knights losing 85 yards.
With the North Central offense out of sync, A.C. Johnson started sending their linebackers on blitzes while also throwing several stunt packages at the Knights. Should the center to quarterback exchange problems carry over into tonight’s contest, Clyburn said his offense can expect to see orange-clad defenders coming at them in waves.
“If I was playing us,” Clyburn said of what he expects to see from the THS defense, “I would do the same thing C.A. Johnson did because it forced us into making mistakes. That’s the kind of preparation we’re going with this week; we’re expecting to see some blitzes. And they are going to stress the line of scrimmage and force us to get the ball to the edge to move the football and be successful.”
To help stem the tide of any possible jail break defensive charges, the Knights moved senior Darius Myers from tackle to center. A one-time center, Myers showed during practice this week that he might be the player who can help get NC’s offense back into the rhythm it was in before the injury to starter Chance Grein.
“We feel very confident moving him in there,” Clyburn said of the switch of Myers to center. “We’ll still have the shotgun snap.
“The critical component is and, I told our kids this after the game and that I would put it on my shoulders, is that we have a better underneath center game plan. You never want to be in a situation where you are practicing it too much, but we have a very basic game plan that we’re running the same plays from underneath center (as with the shotgun.) Our goal line package is that way and that is way we were able to be as successful as we were in the third quarter. We just added a few things this week that give us a better chance to throw passes out of this underneath package if we need it.”
Once things settled down on the center-to-quarterback exchange last Friday, the Knights went back to what they do best with quarterback John Bowers handing the ball off to tailbacks William Jenkins and Cedric Cunningham as the hosts marched down the field for their first touchdown in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter.
Clyburn said such a scenario tonight would benefit his offense as it tries to regain its groove.
“Our running game needs to pound it at them,” he said. “Our offensive line tightened up our splits and we took William Jenkins and Cedric Cunningham and took it right down the field, a few clips at a time for a touchdown last week. We know that we may have to have drives like that this week.”
While the Knights were frantically trying to send their opener into overtime, the Whirlwinds were being taken apart by AAA Wilson, 50-18. The final score, Clyburn said was a bit misleading as the Tigers scored on big plays with a kickoff return for a touchdown and three long scoring passes.
Clyburn said that with both teams having a game under the belts tonight, could be a more clean game, execution-wise.
“The game against Wilson was a little unique,” said the NC boss. “Timmonsville had some opportunities to stay in the game, but they made mistakes … typical Week Zero stuff which any team faces. They just gave up the big plays, a kickoff return and a couple of long fade passes. Overall, they are very athletic and very similar to C.A. Johnson.”
The Whirlwinds’ offense, which goes from the wishbone set with two tight ends to the spread, has given the NC defense plenty to work on in practice this week.
Defensively, should Timmonsville decide to take a play from C.A. Johnson’s defensive playbook and send linebackers on the blitz, the Knights need to make the hosts pay for it.
“We hit the speed option, which is a lot better out of the shotgun than it is underneath, and all those plays which you run when somebody is blitzing you like C.A. Johnson was last Friday,” Clyburn said. “We’ve anticipated that, after watching that tape that Coach (Bill) Pate is probably going to come in with that same game plan as C.A. Johnson did. So, we have to be able to attack it with some screens and some other things that we feel can help our team get into a successful situation.
“We have a few different things which we feel like can give them trouble. And if we can make a big play and turn the tide in a kicking game, it could make a big difference.”
While facing an athletic team for the second time in as many weeks, Clyburn said one key is for his squad to not get caught up in what Timmonsville can or cannot do. Instead, he told the Knights, they must make sure their own house is in order.
“What we’ve told our kids is that we have to do a great job of controlling what we can control,” Clyburn said. “That is playing fundamental football, not making mistakes, not trying to do too much and have one person trying to win the game which is what happened to us last week. Everybody needs to stay relaxed and we need to run our offense and run our defense.”