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Dogs eyeing fourth straight win

Posted: October 10, 2013 2:22 p.m.
Updated: October 11, 2013 5:00 a.m.

In the process of applying the brakes on a 10-game skid in conference games with last week’s 34-33 win over A.C. Flora, Camden also found out a little something about itself.
After the Falcons closed the gap to its final one-point differential in the final three minutes of play, the Bulldogs preserved the victory by blocking the PAT kick. Then, the guests iced things with a key third down completion which made the clock a non-factor.
What he saw from his team in the closing minutes, as well as in the first half when the Dogs trailed, 21-6, made CHS head coach Jimmy Neal a proud and happy man.
“Our coaches didn’t panic and our players’ resolve to be successful is pretty neat,” Neal said in looking back to last week’s emotional victory. “Heck, a lot of teams, a lot of kids, would have been really down after giving up a late score like we did on the long pass and then, would not have given an effort on the extra point. They made Flora block them and Flora didn’t do it.
“You like that part of it. As long as you have that type of effort, you can live with whatever happens. Everybody wants to win every game, but when your guys are doing that type of stuff, you’re proud of them.”
Buoyed by that victory and the two wins in the two weeks leading up to that one, Camden enters tonight’s homecoming contest at Zemp Stadium riding a three-game win streak and inching toward its first post-season appearance since 2010. Standing in the way of extending that run to four games, which would be the Dogs’ longest since the nine-win 2010 campaign, is visiting Lower Richland.
The Diamond Hornets slapped CHS with a 44-20 loss on homecoming in Hopkins last fall, scoring the final 30 points to overcome a 20-14 second quarter deficit. That, however, was a far different team which Neal led out of the locker room for that game last season. This one, he said, is playing well and playing with confidence.
“They’re very confident, right now. They’re playing with confidence,” Neal said of his squad. “There’s a big difference between people who want to win and people who expect to win. Right now, they’re expecting to win.”
Neal said a winning attitude makes for better practices and this week, plenty of attention was paid to the defense which had its struggles in defending the A.C. Flora option attack, an offensive scheme which they do not expect to see again throughout the regular season.
Neal said after Monday’s film session, some of his players saw that they did not play as well as they may have thought they did last week. All the players, he said, worked hard in practice to correct their mistakes.
“They took it to heart when the coaches showed them the film on Monday and they went back out there and worked hard on becoming better football players,” Neal said.
“We could have attacked better on the defensive front but a lot of that had to do with the offense that we were facing. Sometimes last week, we didn’t keep moving our feet. We also have to do a better job of attacking blockers and destroying the play. I think we’re really talented up front … we just have to do a better job up there. They and (defensive line) Coach (Ryan) Roberts are working hard to do that right.”
Tonight, the Dogs will not see an offense built around the option game. Instead, they will encounter an LR offense which, in many ways, is a mirror-image of their own.
Led by multi-pupose quarterback Heath Gilmore (5-4, 140), who rushed for more than 500 yards and six touchdowns as a tailback last season, the Diamond Hornets operate out of the spread set and will run the inside zone play, much like Camden. In Gilmore and his backup, Howard Henderson (5-foot-6), the visitors have two quarterbacks who keep a defense honest with their strong arms and quick feet.
In senior wide out Dontrai Jackson (6-0, 170), the guests have a playmaker at wide receiver and with team speed like the Diamond Hornets possess, they are a prime candidate for short scoring drives. Neal said his defense needs to make LR work for whatever yards it gets tonight.
“We have to keep them from making the big play and, on offense, we just have to execute,” Neal said in a condensed version of the Dogs’ game plan. “We executed very well at the end of the first half and in the second half the last Friday night.”
The LR defense is similar to Camden in the fact that while the Diamond Hornets employ a four-man front, as opposed to CHS’ 3-4 look, they will keep six people in the box to guard against the run while also bringing pressure often.
A week ago, CHS senior quarterback Denzel Martin threw for 258 yards while tailbacks Kendrice Slater and Brandon Hampton accounted for 166 between them. They will be tested tonight by a quick LR defense led by a pair of quick and rangy ends in Rayson Thomas (6-3, 190) and Darien Graves (6-2, 210), along with linebacker and leading tackler Lawrence Tucker.
What the statistics don’t tell you is Camden’s attitude and demeanor coming into this game, which should attract a large home crowd between the brick walls. While saying his team is confident, Neal said the Bulldogs are not taking anything for granted.
“It’s pretty neat that we feel that way,” he said of his players’ collective mindset. “But along with that comes responsibility and that you have to play your best.  And, you can’t take plays off because anybody can get you when you’re going 95 percent.
“Our guys are playing with confidence, but they also understand the effort that you have to put into the game.”

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