Growing up is sometimes hard to do.
North Central learned the hard way that there is still a lot of maturing to do and could not take advantage of opportunities as they dropped their first loss of the season on Friday in Boonetown as visiting Lewisville got its first win of the season and handed the Knights their first loss in defeating the hosts, 12-8.
The Knights had plenty of chances, including at the end to end the game. With just less than three minutes left in the contest, a fade pass fell into the hands of a Lion defender for an interception at the LHS one yard line. It was the second red zone opportunity that fell short inside the 10 for NC.
Knights’ head coach Louis Clyburn was visibly distraught after the loss.
“We knew coming in Lewisville’s record was certainly not an indicator of how good their football team is,” he said. “They are fast and physical and a D1 prospect on the line and some good all-region players all around. We had the kids prepared coming off a bye week that we knew a tough game was coming. We just didn’t make enough plays. You have to make more plays in the red zone”
It has been well documented that this is a young North Central football team. With a starting sophomore quarterback leading the way, the Knights had played very well leading up to Friday. Lewisville’s athleticism and attack on defense forced some costly mistakes and even some miscommunication which led to North Central managing only one offensive score.
“The pressure we had, we have not seen like that,” Clyburn said of the obstacles faced by his offensive line and quarterback Bubba Williamson. “They did to us tonight what we do to people, so it was hard for them and that offensive line. It’s a great pressure defense we play, they did it to us. Our offense tried to block but we just didn’t make those plays.”
Williamson has shown flashes this season of a bright future for the Knights but faced some growing pains in the loss. “At times,” Clyburn said, “our young quarterback made some good and bad decisions. That’s what you get playing a sophomore (quarterback.) It is a growth process for him and why Delmarcus Wood got some plays. That was our plan all along to play both guys, though.
A quick-moving first quarter was highlighted by the NC defense wreaking some of their own havoc on the Lewisville ground attack. Both offenses got it into opposing territory but the defenses stood their ground and kept the football between the 30 yard lines.
Lewisville would strike first in the second quarter. In a drive where a Da’Shon Bethea had an interception called back due to a defensive holding penalty, the Lions cashed in on the second chance by connecting on a 19-yard pass from junior quarterback Trey Keels to James Peeler on the near side. The extra point was no good and the Lions led 6-0 with six minutes left in the half.
The officiating in the game seemed bizarre at times simply due to the fact flags were picked up and some decisions were reversed. One discussion came when Williamson ran the ball on the ensuing drive and lost his helmet on a play after it appeared to be taken off by the face mask. He kept fighting for extra yards and a flag flew; it was called on North Central.
“There was a new thing with this helmet we were warned about and the official said it’s the first time he called it,” Clyburn said of the explanation which he was given about the call. “(Williamson) kept going, and they told me he’s supposed to stop when his helmet goes off. I thought they were going to call face mask on the kid that ripped the helmet off. But like I tell our players, you can’t harp on these things. You become numb to officiating.
“You have to live with the calls and keep going. It’s hard to tell a 16-year old that but as long as they are communicating with me and what to anticipate that there are going to be bad calls and good calls that’s fine. I don’t want the kids to be confused on what they called. “
The first score for North Central, oddly enough, came on a safety. With a low-scoring contest it was a game of field position and the Knights got a safety as a snap sailed in the back of the end zone. The Knights carried the momentum on the ensuing drive by taking it on the Lewisville 42. A 14-yard touchdown run by DeAunte Samuel capped off a methodical march at the 8:05 mark of the third quarter. The extra point failed and it was 8-6 Knights.
If you can take any positives from the loss, it was the play of the Knights running back tandem of Cedric Cunningham and Samuel who continue to fight for positive yardage. Another positive is that of the Jones brothers who were all over the field Friday on defense. Zac and Jamel Jones racked up numerous stops for the Knights.
“We line them up on the edge,” Clyburn said of the Jones’s. “They play outside linebacker and have assignments but what they love about that position is a ‘see ball, get ball’ mentality. Those guys have fun then jump over there and play receiver.”
Lewisville scored later in the with the go-ahead touchdown coming from tailback Mike Hill, who scored from 21 yards out on a touchdown scamper up the far sideline. The Lions took the 12-8 lead after a failed two-point conversion.
“The game came down to their defense making more plays than our offense did,” Clyburn said. “In our defense, we gave up a big play or two but that tends to happen when you play a fast team.”
Lewisville ran out the clock after the late-game interception at the one yard line which halted a would-be comeback from the Knights. The final two minutes and change seemed like a lifetime with numerous penalties that delayed the inevitable first loss of the season for North Central.
Clyburn always seems to have a way with words and he wrapped up the tough night with a message to his players and his coaches.
“You hurt for those kids because they are hurting,” he said. “You see it in their eyes and to nobody’s fault at all. Those losses, when I first got here to North Central, did not hurt as bad. But now that we’ve had success, it hurts a little worse.
“I’ve done this long enough to understand that the most critical day for our football team is Monday. How do we react to this adversity? We all got punched in the face and we have to come back to work and fix these mistakes and go 1-0 next week. That will be the process for the rest of the season.”