North Central at Buford
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.
Records: NC: 2-2; BHS: 1-3
Series record: BHS leads, 17-13
Last meeting: BHS, 35-8, in 2011
The Skinny: North Central senior tailback William Jenkins needs 271 more rushing yards to break the school’s career mark of 2,602 yards gained on the ground by Preston Portee ... Even though Buford finished with a 3-8 record a year ago in Region 4-AA, the Yellow Jackets were forced to vacate each of those three victories after it was discovered that they had played an ineligible player throughout the season.
If you’re going: Take Old Georgetown Rd. West to US 601 North. Continue onto US-521 Business North/Hampton St. for 1.2 miles. Take a slight right onto Fork Hill Rd. and stay on that road for eight miles. Turn right onto SC-903 North and after traveling 1.6 miles, turn right onto SC-522 North. Travel 5.5 miles and turn right onto Tabernacle Rd. Buford High School and its stadium will on your right.
It has been three years since North Central met Buford in a regular season football game. That does not mean, however, that the two rivals are strangers.
In fact, as the Knights head to Buford for tonight’s first of six Region 4-AA games, Louis Clyburn and company know all about the host Yellow Jackets and first-year head coach Tripp Watts.
“We should be very familiar with some of the things Buford does,” Clyburn said with a bit of a smile. “We played them in some 7-on-7’s over the summer and we did the (Camden Shrine Club) jamboree which is kind of a Catch-22 because they’re not showing much and we’re not showing much. You play your starters for a quarter, and then you put in yours subs.”
In last month’s jamboree at Zemp Stadium, NC doubled-up the Jackets, 12-6, in a game in which Buford opened things by marching down the field before a fumble gave the ball to the Knights.
“We were fortunate to have scored more points than they did, due in large part to a couple of turnovers,” Clyburn said in looking back to that mini-game with Buford. “We learned in the jamboree that they can move the football.
“When you watch (Buford) on tape, they have run the ball successfully against what is a good Great Falls team, which is undefeated and ranked in 1A, then against Andrew Jackson last week; they can move the football.”
The Knights will carry a two-game win streak into tonight’s battle in Lancaster County which comes after a week off for the guests. In back-to-back victories over East Clarendon and Camden Military Academy, NC helped itself by forcing four turnovers including three in the first game. Clyburn said keeping that trend going is something which he and his coaches preached, again, this week in practice.
“One of the things that we’ve emphasized to our football team this year was that we need to win the turnover battle,” Clyburn said. “It will not be truer this week than it is any other week for us. We’re going to have to win the turnover battle and make sure that we’re good with ball security, which is something we emphasize.
“What we have to do to win the football game is to limit our mistakes and eliminate those turnovers and make sure we increase the number of mistakes that we force them to make. Most of the time, you think about that as a defensive thing but on offense, you can do the same thing. If you get into a rhythm on offense, you force the defense to get on their heels and keep them off-balance; that all starts with our running game. We challenged our offensive line with that.”
For some of the changes which Watts has brought to the Yellow Jacket program, he has not tinkered with Buford’s 4-2-5 defensive scheme. In the first four games of the season, opponents have averaged better than 31 points per game against BHS. Clyburn prefers to look at it from a different angle, given the fact that tonight’s hosts have faced an unbeaten Great Falls team and an always strong Charlotte Country Day unit in the non-conference portion of the schedule.
“Their two outside linebackers are very good and make plays,” Clyburn said while talking about the Buford defense. “We have to establish the running game and that has been difficult to do for people who have played Buford. At the same time, we have to make them play the whole field. Our outside running game, Jay Parks and Cedric Cunningham, needs to threaten the edge to open things in the middle, which would be more along the lines of William Jenkins.
“If we can spread their defense out, that should open things up for our passing game.”
Offensively, Buford came alive in last week’s 43-33 win over neighboring Andrew Jackson. In their second game, the Jackets also hung up 24 points on Great Falls. Clyburn said Watts’ offense is still evolving after BHS broke from the Wing-T offensive scheme which dates back to the days of former head coach Ernie Hughes.
“They have evolved as the season has gone along. They have a new coach and are doing some different things on offense,” Clyburn said.
Watts took over following the Jackets’ posting an uncharacteristic 3-8 mark in former head coach Mike Wells’ final season on the BHS sidelines. Clyburn said he and his players know enough about Buford’s tradition, dating back to the Hughes era, to know this is a program which will not stay down for long.
“Taking a team to Buford High School is a tough task,” said Clyburn whose squad stays on the road next week for a game at Chesterfield. “They have a good crowd and have good support. Their kids are tough and proud. They have been successful. Even though they did not have a good season last year, they have been successful for the past six or seven years.
“They have a lot of pride and it’s a tough place to play.”