It was a dreary night for Louis Clyburn and North Central. And playing most of a game in a driving rain only served to make matters worse.
On an evening in which Chesterfield played recorded music over the loudspeakers throughout the course of the game, including during plays, the host Rams were the ones who left The Battle Grounds humming a winning tune as they pinned a 62-20 loss on North Central.
The setback snapped the Knights’ three-game win streak and evened their Region 4-AA mark at 1-1. Chesterfield improved to 4-3 overall in winning for the first time in three 4-AA outings in a rematch of last year’s first round state playoff game which the Rams won, 49-18.
Unlike last year’s season finale for NC, this latest edition of the series between the two rivals hardly ended in the usual exchange of pleasantries.
With the Rams carrying a 42-14 third quarter lead which stood at 42-20 heading into the fourth quarter, Clyburn took out his starters and gave his reserves needed playing time. The Rams, however, kept their starters in the contest and continued throwing the football to the tune of 20 unanswered fourth quarter points.
When the contest was finished, Clyburn sought out and found the Chesterfield High School principal to express his disappointment with first-year Rams’ head coach Chris Arnoult padding the final point total after the game was well in hand.
“I told their principal that that might be the way they do things in Chesterfield County,” Clyburn said of his talk, “but that’s not the way we do things in Kershaw County.”
The final 42-point spread was not one which either side could see coming given the way this game started.
The Knights cashed in on their first possession of the night with sophomore Cedrick Cunningham scoring on a five-yard run. Zack Jones then booted the PAT kick and just like that, the guests were on top, 7-0.
The Rams responded by using a long pass to set up their first score which evened things at 7-7 after the first quarter of play.
Even with the steady rain, Chesterfield stayed with their game plan.
“Despite the rain,” Clyburn said, “they threw the ball. They hit us with a lot of corner routes and fades.
“Their yards came in big chunks all night. We were able to pressure and contain their quarterback. I thought our defense played very well in the first half.”
The hosts used three big plays to turn the tide in their favor in the second stanza. A John Johnson interception for a touchdown gave the Rams a 14-7 lead. On the ensuing kickoff, the line drive boot ricocheted off an NC up man and into the arms of a Chesterfield player. Using a short 50-yard field, the Rams scored on the series to go on top, 21-7.
Taking the ball back with some two minutes left to play before intermission, Clyburn said he hoped to catch lightning in a bottle again with another two-minute drill like last week’s in the closing 45 seconds of the first half in a win over Buford which resulted in a touchdown. Instead, Johnson plucked an errant pass from the air and went in for his second pick-six of the quarter as the Rams carried a 28-7 lead into halftime.
“We talked our kids up at halftime,” Clyburn said of a talk delivered while he and his players stood out in the rain during the break. “We told them we had three bad breaks in the second quarter and that we had to go back out there and get those three touchdowns back.”
The Rams, though, took the second half kick and had their longest drive of the game result in a touchdown for a 35-7 lead which took the wind out of the NC sails.
The Knights closed the gap to 35-14 thanks to a William Jenkins five-yard scoring run. “William Jenkins did a great job of rain game running,” Clyburn said of his senior tailback. “He picked his knees up and was able to get big yardage for us all night.”
After another Chesterfield score, the Knights had their final scoring march of the game which ended with Jay Parks taking a screen pass from John Bowers and doing in for the 10-yard touchdown to make it 42-20 after three quarters of play.
The Rams scored 20 points in the final seven minutes to turn this game into a rout. As for the Knights, Clyburn inserted freshman Bubba Williamson at quarterback while classmate Patrick Carter was inserted into the tailback post in a barrage of reserves seeing playing time.
“We are not going to risk injuries to our starters. It’s a long season,” Clyburn said of going to his bench. “The good things was that our ‘twos’ got playing time. But (Chesterfield) kept throwing it.”
Clyburn said his team needs to put this loss in the rear-view mirror and look ahead to Friday’s home game with rival Andrew Jackson. “We have a huge game with AJ on Friday,” Clyburn said. “We have to try and win these next two games with AJ and Indian Land and then, let the chips falls where they may for the final two games of the season (at home with Cheraw and Central.)”
In spite of the loss, Clyburn said his players never gave up or, gave in.
“We battled all night but we needed to make it a 14-0 game (with two NC touchdowns) in the third quarter,” he said of trying to get back into the game.
“It was not a good night for the Knights, but there were things that we can build on. Our running game was strong but when you get down by three touchdowns, that’s too much to overcome.”