When a team does not turn the ball over or, hurt itself in other ways, it is hard to make up ground when you are behind them.
North Central learned that lesson the hard way on Friday as the Knights fell to visiting Buford, 40-6, in the Region 4-AA opener for both teams.
The hosts fell for the second straight game following a 3-0 start to the season in a game in which the Yellow Jackets extended their 19-0 halftime lead to a 40-0 third quarter bulge before NC dented the scoreboard.
For Knights’ head coach Louis Clyburn, his worst suspicions came true in seeing Tripp Watts’ squad in the flesh for the second time this year after the two met more than a month earlier in the Camden Shrine Club Jamboree.
“Buford’s pretty good,” he said. “I was hoping that they wouldn’t be after watching them on film. They just don’t make a whole lot of mistakes. They hit a couple of big throws when they needed to against us and they made a couple cut-back runs across the field which we had not allowed before this game.”
The Knights had the only scoring threat in the first quarter when they moved inside the BHS 10 and faced a second and four. But an NC offensive lineman was not wearing one of his knee pads on the play. An official spotted that and the Knights were penalized 15 yards with a loss of down and faced a third and 20. A Bubba Williamson to Zac Jones completion went for 18 yards but the Knights could not get the needed yardage on fourth and two from the five as BHS set up from inside NC territory for the only time all evening.
The Yellow Jackets opened the scoring with a touchdown pass from Scotti Moser in the second quarter. NC blocked the PAT kick to keep it a 6-0 game. The Knights would have a 10-yard punt on the ensuing series give the ball back to Buford which went into the wishbone set and moved to the NC 20. Junior tailback Isaah Nesbit took it in from there as the guests took a 13-0 lead which went up to 19-0 at intermission.
Clyburn said Moser, who missed last year’s game with NC due to a concussion, made up for it on Friday.
“Moser is a pretty good player,” Clyburn said of the BHS senior quarterback. “He is probably the most experienced quarterback in our conference and he has some pretty decent receivers around him.”
Moser came out hot in the third quarter firing off touchdown passes on the second play of the first drive and the third of the second series as the visitors started salting this one away at 33-0.
“We could not get good field position all night,” Clyburn said. “We also had one punt blocked which turned into a touchdown after we held onto the ball too long on a directional kick.’
The Knights snapped Buford’s shutout bid early in the fourthquarter when backup quarterback Delmarcus Wood found Marquis Barnes with a 71-yard scoring pass to make it 40-6.
Wood came on for Williamson as Clyburn continues to play both quarterbacks in every game.
“I thought that both our quarterbacks played well,” said the NC head coach. “Our big thing is that we have to finish on offense and defense, for that matter, and that all starts with me.
“We’re not finishing blocks and finishing plays. In the second half of the season, we have to finish plays on both sides of the ball against the better teams that we will be playing like Buford. If we can finish blocks, those five-yard runs turn into 20-yard gains. Finishing plays will help us get bigger plays in our running game.
“These past two weeks,” Clyburn continued, “we’ve missed blocks which have prevented us from moving the sticks and that all starts with me and my calling the plays.”
Clyburn said another thing he and his staff must do is to give their reserves more playing time early in the game to keep their starters fresh in the fourth quarter. “I think that will make a difference in how we finish games,” he said.
While the loss was not the way Clyburn and his team wanted to open league play, he said how the Knights respond in practice for Friday’s home game with Chesterfield will help determine the direction which the team is headed in the final five conference games of the season.
“We’re 3-2 right now,” Clyburn said. “Our goal now is to go 3-2 over these next five games. Three region wins will probably get you into the playoffs and after missing the playoffs last season, that is one of our goals. For us to do that, everybody has to get better and that includes the head coach. I know it’s a cliché, but you can’t do the same things and expect to get different results.
“Our team has a huge opportunity ahead of us. Now, we have to go out and attack it.”
Knight Lights: North Central was held to 111 yards rushing on 37 carries. Junior tailback Cedric Cunningham led the way on the ground rushing for 47 yards on 11 carries while Wood had 37 yards on five handoffs ... In the air, the Knights threw for 122 yards with Wood finding his target twice on three attempts for 82 yards and a touchdown while Williamson was six of 15 for 40 yards ... Barnes caught three passes for 83 yards ... Cunningham also led NC in tackles with six stops ehile DeAunte Samuel, Wood and Zac Jones had five tackles apiece.