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Dogs cross one from ‘bucket’ list

Two-point play the difference in 15-13 win over Braves

Posted: August 24, 2013 1:44 p.m.
Updated: August 26, 2013 5:00 a.m.

Having been on Cheraw’s side of the field so often in the first half that the Camden offense could have claimed squatters’ rights, the Bulldogs had only a 7-0 lead to show for it at halftime of Friday’s season opener at Zemp Stadium.
That made for an edgy Camden head coach Jimmy Neal, who admitted to being nervous in the hours leading up to kickoff. His nerves were finally eased when a fourth down Braves pass fell harmlessly to the ground after the final horn had sounded ending a 15-13 Bulldogs victory.
In a first 24 minutes in which 28 of the Bulldogs’ 34 snaps came on the Braves’ end of the field, Camden had only a 15-yard Denzel Martin-to- D.J. Wilson touchdown strike to show for it. That, however, looked like it would be enough as the hosts’ defense held the Braves to minus (-three) yards in 23 first half snaps while creating a pair of turnovers.
Neal later said his team could have started putting this one away in the opening two quarters of play.
“We left a bunch of points on the field,” he said. “We didn’t get it done. What made it worse was that we fumbled on the third play of the second half and then, they hit a big pass on us on a smash route and then, score.
“That really hurt us. We thought that we could get it going in the second half and get some momentum, but it just didn’t work out.”
Camden’s defense, a sore spot a season ago, manhandled the Braves to the tune of allowing 124 yards on 59 snaps with 87 of those coming on two pass plays. The Bulldogs picked off three Robert Pitts aerials while stopping Cheraw for either no gain or a loss of yardage on 18 plays.
The play of the defense was a silver lining after Camden’s offense was held to 41 second half yards after having accumulated 117 at the break.
“Our defense really played well,” Neal said. “Coach (Brandon) Kersey, Coach (Ryan) Roberts, Coach (Casey) Faulkenberry and Coach (Denny) Beckley called a great game. It was just a great, great game by our defense. They completed those two long passes on us and, other than that, we did a great job.”
Camden’s first foray into Cheraw territory came when linebacker Omar Mingo grabbed a Pitts offering, which was tipped by teammate Jordan Sumpter, at the Camden 40 and returned it to the Braves’ 49. The hosts --- after a pair of their 14 penalties on the night --- saw the drive sputter and were forced to punt from the 36.
The Dogs’ first serious scoring opportunity of the young season went by the boards after taking over at the Cheraw 40 via a punt. An 18-yard Kendrice Slater run to the 19 on second down was followed by another carry by the junior tailback to the 11. On the next play a Martin pass bounced off a receiver and the loose ball was scooped out of the air by Cheraw defensive back Demarcus McManus at the goal line with less than four minutes to play in the opening quarter.
The Dogs would cash in on a short --- 31 yards --- field after the defense smothered Cheraw’s switching to the wishbone. An 11-yard Slater carry set the ball at the 23. On third and five from the 12, on the second play of the second quarter, the Braves defense got to tailback Brandon Hampton for a three-yard loss, setting up a fourth and eight from the 15. Forsaking a chance for a field goal attempt, Neal rolled the dice.
Martin rolled left and fired a strike to 6-foot-4 junior wide out D.J. Wilson, who had the height advantage on his defender for the season’s first score which came with 10:42 to play in the first half. Jordan Woody then made a bit of Camden football history as she drilled the PAT kick for a 7-0 lead as the senior became the first female to score a point for the Dogs.
A Jordan Sumpter pick would set the Dogs up at the Cheraw 37 with 3:41 to play before intermission. Camden would get to the Braves’ 12, but on third and seven, Martin was sacked for a loss of seven. On fourth and 14, Nelson Semple was called on to attempt a 36-yard field goal try with five ticks left in the clock, but his kick was low.
In a dominating performance by the defense in the first half, a key was stuffing the wishbone, which Cheraw went to when the spread sputtered. A year ago, Cheraw gave the Dogs fits in the ‘bone. This time, Camden made the necessary adjustments on defense and forced the Braves to go back to the spread.
“When that happened,” Neal said of the ‘bone being broken, “it was like ‘what could they do?’ They have playmakers who made some plays, but we had guys in position on defense.”
It was an opportunistic Cheraw defense which pumped some life into a dull sidelines in the second half when Stephon Harrington came up with a Camden fumble at the Bulldogs’ 44 three plays into the second half.
On first down, Pitts --- who was 0-for-7 with a pair of picks in the first 24 minutes --- hit Khalil Newton on a smash route for a gain of 42 yards on the first snap following the turnover. Two snaps later, fullback Darien Rouseau went over from the one and then, he booted home the PAT kick. And with 9:46 left inthe third, this game was even.
Needing a big play from someone on either side of the ball, Camden received one from its special team as Dontrell Miller picked up a bouncing Roseau punt at his own 23 and sprinted in front of the home team bench for 42 yards before Mark Bowman fought his way through a block to finally drag Miller down at the Cheraw 35.
Martin kept twice on the read option, going on runs of 10 and 12 yards; the latter setting the ball at the 18. On second and three from that spot, Slater went around right tackle and then cut inside and sprinted into the end zone for the go-ahead score which came with 5:07 to play in the third quarter. Rather than try for the solo point, the Dogs used the “bucket” play with holder Ross Hough taking the snap and firing a two-point pass to tight end Chase Truesdale to make it a 15-7 lead.
Looking to stick the dagger into the Braves, who were losing players to cramping at a steady rate, Camden took over from the Braves’ 30 on a punt. A Bulldog fumble on the first play gave the ball back to the guests who went up top on the first play. Pitts threw a deep ball to Teddy Gillespie, who was blanketed by Sumpter, who tipped the pass only to have Gillespie grab the ball out of the air for a 45-yard gain to the Camden 23.
Cheraw used a pass interference call against Camden on a third and 18 pass play from the 18 to keep the drive intact. Two plays later, with 18 seconds left in the third, Randall Watson went in from a yard out for the score. Going for the tie, Watson was thrown back behind the line by Semple on the two-point try.
Clinging to a two-point advantage, Camden’s offense struggled when starting center Timmy King went down with an injured left ankle early in the fourth quarter. Things got out of sync from that point as the game was left up to the Bulldog defense.
With a new center-quarterback combination, Camden lost 41 yards on exchanges in the shotgun set in the final minutes.
On a night in which Mingo, junior defensive end Welton Cauthen and senior tackle Delton Bradford had their way with the Braves; it was the latter duo which came up big to finally seal the seal.
With the Braves facing a third and 11 from the Camden 42 with a little more than three minutes to play, Cauthen came off the edge to lay Pitts out on a pass. The ball floated in the air only to be picked off by the 6-foot-4, 307-pound Bradford at his own 48. Bradford went 17 yards on the return to the Cheraw 35.
Camden burned off more than two and a half minutes of time --- Cheraw had used all three of its time outs by the time the third quarter had expired --- and punted from the Braves’ 36 as Cheraw got the ball back at its own 20 with 18 seconds left. Four incompletions later, Neal and company were finally able to exhale.
“We didn’t play well; our players know that,” Neal said in an empty locker room. “We had people make mistakes tonight who normally don’t make mistakes.”
Neal admitted that not having played the Camden Shrine Club Jamboree one week earlier came back to haunt his team, leading to several of the miscues while having the Bulldog offense out of sync for a majority of the night. Still. he liked what he saw, overall, effort-wise.
“They tried and worked hard and got a little bit of a reward tonight, which is a neat thing when you play as poorly as we did and still beat a team,” he said. “I’m sure Cheraw feels the same way about themselves.
“I thought our guys hung in there and fought through some things … they didn’t give in. We were very, very fortunate. I’m happy for our guys. It sure makes practicing on Monday and Tuesday a whole lot easier.”

Bulldog Bites: Slater led all rushers with 89 yards on 17 carries with a touchdown … Martin, seeing his first action since sustaining a knee injury in the third game of last season against Hartsville, was 8-for-20 passing for 50 yards and a touchdown … Truesdale led the Dogs with three catches for 19 yards … Camden turned the football over four times on the night while Cheraw had three turnovers … Pitts was sacked three times .. The hosts racked up 90 yards in penalties while Cheraw was flagged nine times for 56 yards … Among those taking in the game on Friday was former Bulldog standout and member of the 2001 AAA state championship team, Kelvin Grant, who said he will return to Clemson to complete work needed in order to earn his degree.

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