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Dogs look to snap skid at two

Posted: October 24, 2013 12:12 p.m.
Updated: October 25, 2013 5:00 a.m.

This is a high-wire act which the Flying Wallendas might not want to touch.
With back-to-back losses to Lower Richland and Dreher the past two Friday nights, the Camden football team finds itself tied for fourth place in Region 4-AAA with LR with identical 1-2 records. One spot above them in the conference standings are Dreher and Westwood, both 2-1, which trail a 3-0 Chapin squad which can wrap up the league crown with a win over Dreher.
When Camden hits the road to meet Westwood tonight, the Dogs know they can ill afford a loss if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive. On the other hand, a win by the Redhawks will give the second-year program their first post-season berth.
While Camden may have to win tonight and then next week’s regular season finale with Chapin to guarantee its first trip to the playoffs since 2010, Bulldog boss Jimmy Neal said his team can ill afford to get caught up in the numbers game and/or doing any scoreboard watching.
“I think the most important thing that we can talk to our young men about is Westwood. That’s what is most important to us,” he said. “We have to go up there and try to be successful and, if we are successful, we’ll let the chips fall where they may.”
In spite of two disappointing losses in each of the last Fridays, Neal said practices this week have been upbeat and some of the best the Dogs have had this season. Neal gave all the credit to his players for not letting the past two weeks get them down.
“Our guys have stepped up,” he said. “They understand where we are. It’s been a good eight weeks for us and, we’re not letting down this week.
“It’s been an enjoyable group to coach all year. They’ve looked at some things and they realize that we’ve made mistakes which have hurt us. But it has not been an effort thing or, guys lying down. It’s been a case of some kind of tough things have happened to us … I don’t know how else to put it.”
One thing which, oftentimes, goes overlooked is the importance of a deep snapper, especially at the high school level. Camden is working on its third/emergency long snapper of the season after injuries felled the starter and his backup.
There is no more glaring area as to where the Dogs’ problems have lied the past two weeks as the punting game. Bad/botched snaps and blocked kicks have paved the way to trouble for Camden.
In a 28-21 loss to Lower Richland, a blocked punt was returned for a Diamond Hornet touchdown. Then, last week, two high snaps were recovered by Dreher which scored on both plays. Take away miscues there and the Dogs might be 3-0 heading into Westwood.
But Neal said there are other issues which have him and his staff scratching their heads.
“It’s always something different and it’s tough to overcome,” he said of the breakdowns. “You hate it for our kids and you wish they could have more success. We were 5-1 and we’re having success and then, all of a sudden, we kind of messed that thing up, a little bit.”
Neal quickly pointed out that one thing which he likes about this team is their resiliency and their continuing to work hard to try and get better. “I appreciate them for what they’ve done,” he said.
Over the past two weeks, the Bulldogs have seen an LR offense which relied on the running game to upend Camden before Dreher threw for nearly 200 yards last Friday in Columbia. Tonight, CHS will go up against a Redhawk offense which has potent weapons both on the ground and in the air.
In Westwood’s 34-17 dismantling of A.C. Flora last week, senior tailback Christian Brown torched the Falcons for 298 yards rushing on 28 carries with three runs finishing in the end zone. The previous week, in a 38-3 win over Dreher, Brown went for 202 yards and had three touchdowns. He has piled up more than half of his 1,058 rushing yards the past two weeks.
Brown, though, is hardly the only game breaker for Rodney Summers’ troops. Senior quarterback Chris Patterson has big-play receivers in senior wide out Vyncint Smith and junior Adonus Lee.
Neal said the Dogs can ill afford to try and concentrate on stopping one facet of the WHS offense and forgetting about the other. But the running game is option one for the Redhawks.
“Obviously, they have some tall wide receivers in Smith and Lee,” he said. “But the main thing they try to do to you is spread you out so they can run it. But they’re a run-first team; they’re about 80 percent run.
“We have to defend the run. They do a great job with that with their guards, tackles and center pulling. They have some really good players. They’re very good … they’re talented.”
Defensively, the hosts have held opponents to less than 20 points per game and held unbeaten Spring Valley to just 24 in a 10-point loss to the Vikings in week four.
Just as the WHS offense has athletes on that side of the ball, the Redhawk defense has plenty, as well.
“Their defense is very fast,” Neal said. “They’re probably the fastest defense that we’ve faced since Hartsville and, I don’t know which is faster. They really get to the ball quickly.”

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