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Missed chances doom Knights in 7-6 loss
NC DEFENSIVE END Quinn Muldrow grabs and brings down Buford quarterback Scotti Moser in Fridays opening game. - photo by Tom Didato/C-I photo

With his team’s most experienced lineman and top running back sitting this one out with minor injuries, North Central head coach Louis Clyburn had to rethink things after the Knights were faced with a fourth and goal from the Buford six in the second quarter of Friday’s Camden Shrine Club Jamboree opener.

One play earlier, it appeared as if NC would take a 6-0 lead over the Yellow Jackets only to have quarterback Bubba Williamson’s one-yard sneak into the end zone washed out by an illegal procedure call. Buford held on the fourth down carry, came back to score a touchdown and then snuffed a two-point NC conversion run to escape with a 7-6 win over the Knights.

After having spun their wheels in their first offensive series, the Knights got traction as Williamson found Delmarcus Wood and Marquis Barnes with 39-yard passes, the latter setting NC up with a first down at the Yellow Jackets’ 12. Two DeAunte Samuel carried netted 11 yards for a first and goal from the one.

Being turned back twice, Williamson snuck in from inside the one only for the penalty flag to fly. Rather than risk a slant pass on fourth down, Clyburn went the safe route and called a running play which went nowhere.

“I was very concerned about our protection with our starting quarterback being in there,” he said. “They were bringing everybody and we went safe and ran the ball from the five.  We played it safe. I know some of our offensive coaches wanted to run the slant, which probably would have been a touchdown but we would be risking the health or our quarterback. We’ll need that play (this) week.”

After the defensive stand, Buford proceeded to march 93 yards in 12 plays with the key play being a 19-yard Scotti Moser to Christian Catledge pass on fourth and five from their own 43. The drive closed with Moser going in from six yards out on a bootleg with 4:53 left in the contest. Wade Lambert’s kick was good to make it a 7-0 lead.

NC, which ran only 16 plays in the game but completed four of its five passes for 153 yards, got 73 of its yards up top two plays after the Buford touchdown. With Wood under center, the senior looked to his left and threw a pretty fade pass to a streaking Jordan Sweetenburg with the speedy sophomore outrunning his lone pursuer for the touchdown which came with 3:43 showing on the game clock. The Yellow Jackets preserved their lead by stopping a J.J. Stevens carry for the two-point conversion.

Buford would give the ball back with a punt with 42 seconds left as NC took a knee at its own 20 to end the game.

Buford threatened quickly as it started the game with the ball at its own 30 and driving to the NC 16. On third down, a Moser pass was batted down at the line of scrimmage by Zac Jones. Moser’s fourth down pass went downfield only to be swatted away by sophomore cornerback Patrick Carter to end the threat.

NC, though, would go three and out in a contest in which it netted 14 yards in 11 carries. That figure should come with an asterisk as starting tailback Cedric Cunningham was not in uniform after having twisted his ankle in a scrimmage. With his team’s chief game-breaker watching from the sidelines, Clyburn’s hands were tied when it came to his team’s offense.

“We wanted to see if we could run the football a little bit,” said the seventh-year Knight boss. “We struggled, at times, running the football because we could not get in our two-back set with Cedric being hurt.”

“Both our quarterbacks like throwing the ball, as you can see, but we have to make sure that we run the football. That’s going to be our strength.”

As for the night in general, Clyburn said he was disappointed with some of the penalties his young team committed. In all, though, he was pleased with what he saw.

“We’ve only been with these guys for two weeks,” he said. “There are a lot of things, game operation-wise,  that we have to work on.

“We're a young football team and these guys are going to grow. But I liked our effort and enthusiasm.”