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Chapman, Cheraw hold off Dogs in 51-38 shootout

Posted: August 19, 2012 1:18 p.m.
Updated: August 20, 2012 5:00 a.m.

CHERAW – Final exams are not supposed to be given on the first day of school.
That did not stop Cheraw from throwing the book at a young Camden defense in what turned out to be a 51-38 victory for the host Braves in Saturday afternoon’s season opener.
More times than not, the Bulldogs were with one --- and sometimes, no --- returning starter(s) on defense against a Cheraw offensive scheme which opened in the spread set, changed into the wishbone after the passing game bogged down, before settling into a split-back “insert” scheme with Robert Pitts taking over under center for starter Brett Burnett.
The one constant for the hosts was tailback Justin Chapman who sliced and diced his way to a 31-carry, 276-yard afternoon with five touchdowns. The 5-foot-11, 170-pound senior also caught two passes for 12 yards as he accounted for 288 of Cheraw’s 477 yards in offense in a game which was pushed back a day after Friday evening’s thunderstorm.
For their part, the Bulldogs found themselves in a 16-0 halftime hole, only to cut the deficit in half with 14-play, 56-yard scoring march capped by a Darius Smith one-yard plunge to open what turned out to be a 38-point second half for the guests, who finished the steamy afternoon by piling up 359 yards in offense.
“Obviously, on offense, we did some good stuff,” said Camden head coach Jimmy Neal. “Our timing got a little better as the game went on. Maybe, we’ll continue to get better. (Quarterback) Josh (Council) ran around back there and made some good things happen. There was some good timing stuff.
“We can definitely build on this.”
Council threw for 243 yards on a 16-for-33 passing day with a pair of touchdown tosses, both to senior classmate Cedric Cook, who had four catches for 83 yards. On the ground, junior tailback Brandon Hampton had a solid varsity debut, rushing 10 times for 88 yards including a 61-yard scoring run.
In a game which started out with the two defenses setting the early tone, it was Cheraw linebacker Denzelle Watson who got things going when he stepped in front of a screen pass at the Camden 26, made the pick and rambled into the end zone for the game’s first score at the 5:57 marker for the first quarter.
After a pair of non-descript possessions, the Dogs got things going on their third series which began at their own 19. Council started getting into a groove as he scrambled before finding Dontrell Miller for 26 yards on third and eight from the 20. Later, he hooked up with Cook for a gain of 10 on third and four from the Cheraw 34. On fourth and four, Jerel Holloman went low to get his hands under a 10-yard pass for a first down at the 24.
Holloman followed that grab by diving over the middle for a 10-yard catch at the Cheraw two. But the Braves’ defense stuffed a run on fourth and one from their to take over on downs.
From there, the hosts switched to the wishbone, marching 99 yards on a dozen plays with Chapman going over from the three for a 14-0 lead with 8:29 left in the half.
Next, it was Camden’s turn to make a goal line stand as linebacker Cort Calk got to Hampton behind the line for a one-yard loss on fourth and inches from the Bulldog three with 58.9 ticks left in the first half clock.
Camden’s defensive effort went for naught when, after losing three yards on first down, Council was dragged down in the end zone for a safety and a 16-0 Cheraw lead with just 10.7 seconds left before intermission.
Later, Neal accepted full responsibility for the safety, saying he was unaware as to the ball being at the one yard line due to a communication mix-up with one of the team’s coaches on top of the press box.
“I made a bad, bad call when the ball was at the one-yard line. I didn’t see it,” Neal said. “That was my fault; I should have asked him (where the ball was), but I didn’t.”
Having tallied just 67 first half yards, the Dogs made up for lost time in opening the second half with a 56-yard scoring march, which was aided by a roughing the passer call on a fourth and one from the 12. Hampton ran for five yards to the two. Smith then went over the pile from a yard out for his first varsity score and the Dogs’ first points of the season to end with 14-play drive with 7:06 left in the third. Council then found Cook with the two-point conversion pass at the Dogs had cut the lead in half while lighting the torch on what would become a wild second 24 minutes.
A Cheraw pick led to a Chapman 51-yard scoring jaunt on a toss sweep to make it a 23-8 game with 3:50 left in the third.
Not to be outdone, Hampton answered the call when he took a handoff, went inside before bouncing around right end and skirting the Cheraw sideline for a 61-yard touchdown run which was followed by Council’s two-point pass to Alexx Cooke as the guests cut the margin to 23-16 with 3:26 to go in a third quarter which closed with Chapman scoring on a six-yard carry before fullback Xavier Taylor plunged in from two yards out on a series which included a 49-yard pass from Pitts to Teddy Gillespie to the Camden three.
Trailing 37-16, Camden sped up the offensive tempo against a Braves’ squad which played several players on both sides of the football.
On what was a precision-like drive, the Dogs opened the fourth quarter going 58 yards on four plays for a score. Miller went for 20 yards on an end-around to the Cheraw 37. Council then spotted Cooke for a gain of 14 before scrambling to his left and lobbing a pass to Cook, who went 23 yards for the touchdown. The same pair hooked up on the two-point conversion and with 10:58 left, the Dogs trailed 37-24.
Not wanting to kick the ball to Cheraw’s trio of dangerous return men, Camden had sophomore Nelson Semple pooch kick throughout the afternoon. After Cook’s score, however, Neal called for an onside kick which Camden recovered only to have the officials reverse the call saying a Bulldog player touched the ball before it traveled 10 yards.
That set the Braves up at the Camden 49. The Dogs got payback for the disputed call as Cook picked off a Pitts pass at his own 15 with 9:34 left to play.
Cheraw put this one away, following a Camden punt, with a 13-yard Chapman scoring run making it 44-24 with 5:35 to go in the contest.
Camden would not go down quietly, however, as the Dogs went 59 yards on a dozen plays with Council sweeping around right end for the four-yard score at the 3:42 mark. Council hit five passes for 61 yards in the scoring march which was answered by a Braves’ score 77 seconds later with Taylor capping an 11-yard drive, set up by a 37-yard onside kick return by Mark Bowman, to give the Braves a 51-30 lead.
The Dogs had one last salvo left to be fire as they went 60 yards on 12 plays, the final 36 of those being on a swing pass from Council to Cook, who outraced the Braves into the end zone with 1:42 remaining in the game. The afternoon’s final points came courtesy of Council’s conversion run.
As he looked at the final score, Neal said he saw several positives from a Camden defense which had a goal line stand and an interception while playing a majority of the game on their side of the field due to the called, short kickoffs. “They have some special guys back there and we didn’t want to fool with them,” Neal said of not kicking to the Cheraw deep men.
“I know 51 points looks really, really bad, but we played better defense than that. We did some good things on defense,” he added.
In spite of the unusual --- 2 p.m. --- starting time, Neal said his players came out ready and played hard until the final horn. He also said that, given the different set of scenarios offered by Cheraw after rain and lightning ended the chance of playing on Friday, this was a game which had to be played. It was one which the Bulldogs boss said will pay off beginning this week.
“Our guys didn’t quit,” Neal said.
“We knew that we had to play sometime. These guys have to get some game experience; we couldn’t afford not to have played this game. These guys will get a whole lot better. You are going to see a lot of improvement from game one to game two. We’ll work at it ... we’ll get better.”

Bulldog Bites: Holloman and Cooke had five catches each for Camden for 65 and 44 yards, respectively, while Miller had two grabs for 50 yards to go along with three carries for 13 yards … Council also rushed for 14 yards on as many carries … Chapman’s rushing yards were divided fairly evenly, rushing for 139 yards on 14 carries in the first half and 137 on 17 second half calls … When starting offensive tackle/punter Charlie Nash was scratched from the game due to a concussion, senior Josh Tarte got the call on the offensive line with sophomore Ross Hough handling the punting chores … The block of the afternoon had to be supplied by Camden tackle Hunter Rankin, who had a de-cleater on Hampton’s 61-yard scoring run … The game was stopped for an extended break between the third and fourth quarters as the referee was overcome by heat.

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