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Dog defense answers second half bell in handing Cheraw its first loss, 24-14

Posted: September 12, 2016 4:03 p.m.
Updated: September 13, 2016 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I photo/

CAMDEN LINEBACKERS BLAKE DALTON (37) and Will Warnock combine to make a helmet-jarring hit on Cheraw tailback Charles Wilson in Friday’s 24-14 Bulldog win.

CHERAW --- For three weeks, the Camden offense had carried its defensive colleagues in having averaged better than 38 points in the Bulldogs’ 2-1 start to the season.

Friday night in Cheraw, the Camden defense showed up when needed most.

Trailing host Cheraw, 14-12, at halftime, the Bulldog defensive unit shut down the Braves’ multi-pronged offensive attack to the tune of 40 second half yards. Meanwhile, the Dogs did just enough on offense to come away with the 24-14 victory.

The win gave Jimmy Neal and company a 3-1 overall record while helping to take some of the sting away from the previous week’s 61-20 drubbing at the hands of Hartsville.

“It was an outstanding job by those guys. They just hung in there and got after them,” Neal said of a Camden defensive unit which allowed a season-low 182 yards to the Braves. 

“Cheraw had us back-pedaling a little bit. We had prepared for the spread stuff and the shotgun but we didn’t think it would be like it was for the whole first quarter. I thought our guys adjusted pretty well to what they were doing against us.”

The Braves’ (3-1) offense threw everything but the single-Wing at the Camden defense on a night in which the hosts lined up in the spread, the shotgun, the full house and the wishbone formations. After allowing Cheraw 142 yards on 22 first half snaps, the Dogs clamped down in the second 24 minutes limiting the Braves to 40 yards on 29 offensive formations.

Camden, which entered the game averaging 450 yards in offense through its first three contests, was not in sync.

 The Bulldogs had 414 yards in offense thanks in large part to junior tailback Jericho Murphy’s 195-yard rushing night with two touchdowns. Senior quarterback Devin Beckley came into the game having thrown for 601 yards and six touchdowns. Friday, he did not throw for a score but rather was on the receiving end of a Jo Jo Watson pass on a second quarter flea-flicker which cut the Cheraw lead to 14-12.

Neal said his team’s offense was a tick off and gave the Braves’ defense some of the credit for his team’s not cashing in three times after having moved inside the Cheraw 16 yard line and coming away empty each time. “We were just a little bit off tonight,” Neal said of his team’s offense. 

“One of our goals which matters is our red zone scoring and we were awful there tonight. That was disappointing. We had a lot of opportunities down there.”

On a humid night on which there was nary a breeze, Camden seemed to have put the Hartsville loss from eight nights earlier behind it in opening the game with a crisp, 67-yard scoring drive after taking the opening kickoff.

A 13-yard Beckley to Watson quick-hitter touched things off. On third and four from the Cheraw 48, Deldrik Jones took a jet sweep for 10 yards which was followed by an 18-yard Murphy run to the 20. After carries of four and five yards by Lance McCray, Murphy capped the nine-play march by going in from two yards out for the 6-0 lead at the 9:10 mark of the first quarter.

A missed PAT kick kept the lead at six points. Scoring quickly, though, was big for Camden’s psyche, Neal said. He was less pleased after his defense forced a punt on Cheraw’s first series which was followed by in ineligible receiver downfield call against the Dogs which turned a 15-yard Beckley to Avery Barnes completion to a two-yard gain which stunted the visitors’ second series.

“It was a missed assignment. If we block where we are supposed to, we don’t get called for that,” said the Bulldog boss. “Those things happen, though, to 16- and 17-year-olds. This is just the fourth game of the year. We just have to continue to work and get better.”

Taking over at the Camden 39 following a Will Warnock punt, the Braves went to work and needed just four running plays to find the end zone with junior Trammel McFarlan going the final 21 yards as he went through the heart of the Camden defense on a third and two carry which landed him in the end zone. Jonah Dyson’s kick was true and with 3:56 showing on the first quarter clock, the Braves had grabbed the 7-6 lead.

Trying to get this game into a track meet, Camden came right back and used a 46-yard fingertip grab by Jones of a Beckley pass down the middle of the field for a first down at the Cheraw 10. After Beckley was thrown for a five-yard sack on third down, Warnock was called on to try a 33-yard field goal which had the distance but was signaled as being wide right as the Dogs came away empty on their second trip to the red zone in three offensive series.

Cheraw would take the lead after Kristian McCray grabbed a tipped Beckley pass from the air at his own 39 with 10:07 left before halftime.

Jumping into the wishbone for the first time, the Braves kept the ball on the ground for five straight plays which led to a fourth and three from the Camden 43. Senior back Monte Pratt then took a handoff and headed for the left side of the field. He was first grabbed by a Camden defender but broke free from that and took off into the end zone for the score which put the hosts on top, 14-6 with 6:30 left in the second quarter.

Neal was none-too-happy that Cheraw was able to score on the fourth down carry.

“We had him stopped in there and then he bounced outside,” Neal said of Pratt’s run. “We didn’t take good angles and he runs for a touchdown. But we’ll learn from this on Monday when we watch the game film.”

Following an exchange of punts and near-misses from the Bulldog offense, Camden took over from the Cheraw 41 with 2:19 remaining in the opening half. 

The Braves’ defense would get a heavy dose of Murphy with the 193-pound tailback going for 13 yards on the first of five straight carries. The third call, a counter trey, went for 24 yards to the one yard line where he was pushed out of bounds setting up a first and goal. Three snaps netted a loss of two yards with Beckley recovering his own fumble at the three on third down. 

Calling a time out, the Dogs went into their bag of tricks on fourth and goal from the three. Beckley took the snap from center and handed to Murphy who lateraled the ball to Watson who was coming around from the left end on what looked to be a double-reverse. Instead, Watson stopped and flipped a pass to a wide-open Beckley who was running to his right in the end zone for the score. A dropped two-point conversion pass kept the Cheraw lead at 14-12 with 32.1 ticks left in the first half clock.

Having seen just about everything from Cheraw offense, Neal said his defensive coaches tweaked things on that side of the ball in the first half as well as during the break.

“Cheraw came out and started running the wishbone which we prepared for all week and thought we were going to get the entire time,” he said. “I thought we played it pretty well. We adjusted to some unbalanced things. I was proud of our defense and our coaches for that.”

Forcing a three and out on Cheraw’s opening second half series, the Camden offense used a 23-yard middle screen from Beckley to Avery Barnes to the Braves’ 41. The same pair later hooked up on a 13-yard pass play for a first down at the Cheraw 14. The drive fizzled out, however, after three straight incompletions as Cheraw took over from its own 15.

After not having attempted a pass in the first 24 minutes, the hosts got pass-happy in the second half. But another three and out and a punt set up Camden at the Cheraw 41.

A 25-yard Beckley-to-Barnes strike on third and eight from the 39 set up a 14-yard scoring run by Beckley. The senior quarterback got the entire Cheraw defense to chase after Murphy while Beckley went around left end and into the end zone with the bootleg run which came with 5:16 to play in the third. A missed connection on the two-point pass kept it a one-touchdown game with Camden clinging to an 18-14 advantage.

Getting the ball back following a punt after three incomplete passes, the Camden offense had nothing to show for an 11-play march which started from their own 48 and ended at the Braves’ seven following an incomplete pass on fourth and three from that spot with 1:28 left in the third quarter.

A series of successive punts allowed Camden to maintain its six-point lead but things were still dicey after Dyson boomed a 50-yard kick which was downed at the Bulldogs’ 26 with 4:46 left in the game.

Facing a weary Braves defense, Beckley spotted freshman wide out DaVea Cauthen who juked a defender and turned the innocent catch into a 19-yard gain to the 45. Murphy then received the call on for straight carries which netted 19 yards with the fourth of those bringing up a third and six from the 39. Beckley hooked up with Jones for nine yards to keep the drive going. Two plays later, Murphy swept around right end, getting a block from sophomore lineman Connor Jayne, for the touchdown which sealed the deal at 24-14 with 1:34 left in the contest.

Jayne got the start at guard a did junior right tackle Tyler Hampton. The pair got the nod in place of injured starters Trey Watkins and Caleb Huggins in a rebuilt offensive line.

“I think it bothered us mentally but I thought (Jayne and Hampton) played well,” Neal said of the unit. “Connor Jayne got his first start tonight and Tyler has been playing for three or four weeks. I’m proud of those guys.

“On that last touchdown, Connor hooked their end. It was a heck of a play and a good job on his part.”

Cheraw used seven different ball carriers on a night in which it rushed for 152 yards on 35 carries. Camden fed the ball to Murphy 29 times while McCray pounded his way for 33 yards on eight carries while Beckley rounded out the ground game by going for 25 yards as the Dogs massed 238 yards on 40 carries.

Coming into the game, the Camden coaching staff was well aware of Cheraw’s playing as many as seven players on both sides of the football. The Bulldogs wanted to keep the heat on the hosts by playing fast. As the night dragged, so too did the Braves who were getting tired in the latter stages of the game.

Neal said that once the temperature starts to drop, Cheraw will become a dangerous group.

“They’re a good team,” said the 19th year Camden boss. “They’re going to have a lot of success in AA play this year. We beat a good football team tonight. Both teams went at each other. I guess that we’ll all sleep good tonight after this game.”

 

Doing it for dad: Camden was led through its banner and onto the playing field by Jerod Dalton, the father of sophomore linebackers Blake and Brock Dalton. The elder Dalton is leaving on deployment this week with the United States Army and will be unable to take in any more of his sons’ games.

As the Bulldogs broke though the banner, Blake Dalton was on his father’s left carrying the American flag while Brock was on the right flying the colors of the United States Army.

Blake Dalton, filling in for the injured Tyler Maxwell, had a vicious second half sack which led to a three and out by the Bulldog defense.

 

Bulldog Bites: Since being cleared to return to play in week nine of last season, Murphy has rushed for 730 yards and eight touchdowns while also catching a pass for a touchdown in six games. His 195-yard game in Cheraw was his career-best and his fourth 100-yard rushing game … Beckley, who came away one touchdown pass from an unusual hat trick of having run for and catching and throwing for a touchdown in the same game, was seven-for-18 throwing the ball for 165 yards … Watson’s end-around scoring toss to Beckley was the third completion in as many attempts for Bulldog non-quarterbacks … Cheraw quarterback Bradley Holliman completed 4 of his 16 passes --- all coming in the second half --- for 30 yards … Camden had 21 first downs to Cheraw’s nine … Camden was 5-for-12 on third down conversions and 1-of-3 on fourth down … Cheraw converted on just one of 13 third down plays but were perfect on all three fourth down plays.


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