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Dogs come up short in game and for playoffs

Posted: November 2, 2013 1:57 p.m.
Updated: November 4, 2013 5:00 a.m.

An uncatchable fourth down pass landed harmlessly on the Camden sidelines with a little more than four minutes left in Friday’s 25-20 loss to visiting Chapin, with the bouncing ball went the host Bulldogs’ AAA playoff chances.
On a night in which the rains came early, stopped and then started again, the stars were aligned for Jimmy Neal’s troops to get into the post season. Thanks to A.C. Flora’s 49-19 dismantling of Dreher, a Camden victory would have left the Dogs in third place in Region 4-AAA. Instead, the five-point setback to the conference champion Eagles left Camden (5-5, 1-5), for the time being, last in the six-team circuit.
After having hugged several members of his team on their way out of the locker room for the final time, Neal shook his head when told the result of the A.C. Flora contest. He then talked about a series of mistakes which paved the way for his team’s fourth straight defeat following a 5-1 start to the season.
On this night, there were many miscues. For the fourth straight week, a botched deep snap on a punt led to a touchdown while a second was avoided thanks to a goal line stand by the defense. There was an interception, deep in Chapin territory which stunted a Bulldog drive. And there were four muffed snaps in the shotgun set which took the offense out of its rhythm on those series.
These were scenes which Neal has taken in before this season.
“It was kind of a microcosm of our season, I guess,” he said. “Coming up a little bit short, not making fourth downs and getting to the red zone and not scoring, then having a turnover or two, here and there.
“The thing is, our guys played so hard. They played hard all year long. I’m very proud of them. We didn’t always play smart, but they always played hard. They tried. We have to do both. We have to do a better job of coaching them.”
Aside from the plays which did not connect, one ongoing theme this season was Camden’s overwhelming number of penalties. That reared its ugly head again on a miserable night at Zemp Stadium as the Dogs were whistled for nine infractions resulting in 82 lost yards. That brought the grand total to 104 for 736 yards on the season.
“If I have a complaint (about this team),” Neal said, “it was that we weren’t as disciplined as we should have been.”
The Eagles, which ran the table in 4-AAA play, did not rest their starters on a night in which it looked as if they would play run and hide with the lead after junior tailback Napier Armstrong capped a 10-play, 74-yard scoring drive with a three-yard plunge to make it a 19-7 Chapin lead with 1:59 left in the first half.
Neal’s quote about his team’s playing hard was never so much in evidence as it was after the Dogs got the ball back at their own 34 with 1:51 to go before the break.
A holding call on first down chopped 20 yards off a 26-yard Kendrice Slater carry. The junior tailback would then go for 12 yards to the Chapin 38 on a second down call. A muffed snap from center pushed the ball back to the Bulldog 44 as Neal called a time out with 38 ticks left in the clock.
On third and 18, quarterback Denzel Martin found Alexx Cooke with a bubble screen which the senior wide out took 45 yards to the Cheraw 11. After Martin went for seven yards on first down, he then rolled out and found 6-foot-6 tight end Chase Truesdale deep in the middle of the end zone with a scoring toss with seven seconds to play in the half. Jordan Woody tacked on her second PAT kick of the night as the hosts trimmed the deficit to 19-14 at intermission.
Over the past four weeks, Camden has been in “hold your breath” mode when in punt formations and after two snafus there in the first half, punter Charlie Nash was able to get off his first two tries of the second half with the latter of those coming from his own end zone as Chapin took over from the Camden 37 with 7:37 to play in the third quarter.
The Eagles cashed in on the third play of their second scoring march from inside the Camden 40. This time it was Armstrong going through the heart of the Bulldog defense for a 30-yard scoring scamper for a 25-14 lead with 6:54 to play in the third quarter.
Chapin threatened on its next series, moving from its own 30 to the Camden 19 only to have Zach Krumrey fumble at the Camden 11 following a catch of a pass from quarterback Matt Charpia. Camden defensive back Josh Sumpter came up with the loose ball as the Dogs were still hanging around.
Camden returned the favor after reaching the Chapin 42. On a first and 10 from there, Eagle cornerback Christian Santiago out-battled Bulldog wide out Dontrell Miller for an interception at the Camden nine on the next to last play of the third quarter.
The Bulldog defense forced a Chapin punt on fourth and seven from the 22. This time, a bad snap to punter Zach McCall led to McCall’s being tackled as he tried to kick the ball which was recovered by Camden’s Darius Smith.
An illegal touching penalty against the guests on the play set the ball at the Chapin three. On the ensuing snap, Slater went in for the touchdown and with 10:13 left in the game, Camden closed the gap to 25-20 after the two-point conversion pass was incomplete.
Chapin looked as if it would put Camden’s post-season hopes to bed when it took possession of the ball following the kickoff and drove from its 41 to a first and goal at the Bulldogs’ four. One play after having broken off a 16-yard carry to the four, Armstrong coughed up the ball at the three with Sumpter, again, coming away with the loose ball with 7:32 remaining in the contest.
Facing a third and two from the 11, Slater went for 11 yards and a first down to keep the drive going. A 12-yard Brandon Hampton carry picked up another first down at the 33. Slater then gained seven and one yard on consecutive calls to set up a fourth and two from the 41. An incompletion on that play turned the ball over to the Eagles who ran out the final 4:15 of the night with Charpia picking up a big first down with a nine-yard run on third and six from the 37.
Neal said throwing on fourth down was something his team had to do as the Eagle defense was geared for the run.
“It was nobody’s fault,” he said of the fourth down play. “The ground game was so predictable. We kept running and running it … we had to if we wanted to gain yards. Then, they got in there and forced us into (passing the ball) and, that’s what we did.”
After the game, Neal said his defense came up big with getting a pair of turnovers in the second half while also keeping the Eagles out of the end zone after a high snap on a punt gave the guests a first and goal from the Camden four in the first quarter.
“They stepped up. I was proud of our defense,” Neal said. “It was just amazing some of the stuff they did out there tonight. We had them on their heels a couple times with our defense.”
Camden got the first break of the night when a Charpia pass, on the game’s fourth play, was picked off by Sumpter at the Chapin 36. He returned the pick 13 yards to the 23.
Slater, who went for 149 yards on 23 carries picked up 10 on a third and 14 from the 27. On fourth and five from the 17, Martin lofted a fade pass to 6-foot-4 junior wide out D.J. Wilson who hauled in the throw for his third scoring catch of the year for a 7-0 Bulldog lead with 9:13 left in the first quarter.
Camden’s struggles in the punting game came back to haunt the Dogs on their second series as a high snap gave the Eagles a first down at the Bulldog 18 on a play which lost 25 yards. It took five plays for Armstrong to go over on a third and goal from the two with 3:43 left in the opening stanza. McCall’s Pat try was blocked by Jordan Sumpter, his sixth block kick of the year.
Another bad snap on Camden’s next series resulted in a loss of 23 yards as Chapin took over from the Bulldog four, only for Josh Sumpter to break up Charpia’s fourth down pass.
Those disciplined maladies Neal talked about hurt his offense on the next series as a 49-yard Hampton carry was cut to one of 34 yards by a personal foul, block in the back call at the end of the play. The drive dried up at the Chapin 35 after a pair of incompletions.
The visitors then went 65 yards on six plays, not bigger than a 58-yard Charpia to Alex Young hook-up to the Bulldogs’ two. On second and goal from the one, Charpia plunged over for a 13-7 lead with 8:58 left after Josh Sumpter batted down the two-point pass.
Chapin’s defense held Camden on downs again, stopping Hampton for a gain of one on a fourth and three carry from the Eagles’ 27 with 5:18 to play in the opening half.
Using a 23-yard Chapia-to-Young completion to the Camden 22 and then Charpia finding Carter White in the flat for a gain of 15 on third and six from the 18, the Eagles cashed in on their final series of the first half with Armstrong doing the honors from three yards out on second and goal to push the lead to 19-7, following McCall’s kick, with 1:59 left in the second quarter.
By night’s end, Slater’s 149 rushing yards was backed up by Hampton going for 74 more as the Dogs picked up 212 of their 323 yards in offense on the ground. The work of the two backs was a common theme throughout the season.
“Thos are two good running backs. They keep each other fresh,” Neal said of his backfield combo. “I’m glad Kendrice is back next year and we’ll miss Brandon. We’ll miss all those seniors.”
Neal went on to mention each senior by name after they were each singled out during the team’s annual senior farewell in the end zone.
While the Dogs lost their final four games to close the season, they had a chance to win each of those contests. The five-point difference in a game between Camden and the region champions spoke volumes as to the parity of this conference which could have been covered with a napkin.
“We’re disappointed that we couldn’t have done any better this year,” Neal said of his own team, “but we’re not disappointed in our kids or, their effort. I’m disappointed for them, but we appreciate them and the way they represented Camden High school and the gold and black.”

Bulldog Bites: Heavy rains kept the crowd down for Senior Night at Zemp while also postponing several other games in and around the Midlands including the Dreher at Westwood contest … Slater came up 21 yards shy of rushing for 1,000 on the season. Hampton finished with 721 yards on the ground … Martin completed eight of his 17 passes on Friday for 111 yards, giving him 1,175 passing yards in his senior campaign … Neither side was anything to talk about on third and/or fourth down conversions. Camden was 4-for-13 on third downs and 1-of-4 on fourth down. Chapin was 4-for-11 and 1-for-3, respectively … The Dogs lost 48 yards on the two punt attempts which they never got off … It would be hard to imagine any player having blocked more than six kicks as did Jordan Sumpter this season.

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