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Senior-laden Dogs built for success

Posted: August 13, 2018 2:03 p.m.
Updated: August 14, 2018 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I

BENNETT CALDWELL (22) was a special teams weapon for Camden last season.

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It is hardly the holiday season but second-year Camden High head coach Brian Rimpf is hoping his Bulldogs will be more Scrooge-like this fall.

In 2017, Camden picked off just four passes from 189 enemy throws while recovering seven fumbles. The Dogs lost the turnover battle to the opposition, 19-11. Reversing that line will go a long way toward Rimpf and company changing the fortunes of a squad which is coming off a 3-8 campaign.

“We have to create a lot more turnovers that we did last year,” Rimpf said of his team’s minus (-8) number in that category.

Rimpf hopes a lot of things will improve in his second go ‘round at CHS and, with 27 seniors on the roster and a coaching staff which has been together for two years, it was a smooth and productive offseason.

“The second year is always easier,” Rimpf said. “The guys know what to expect. The coaches know what to expect. Our coaching staff has been together for a full year and, that’s a big factor. The kids adapted pretty quickly last year and they were in line with what we wanted to do.

“This year, it was easy. We have a really good group of kids. We have 27 seniors who have played a lot of football and are good kids. These are guys who are going to make Camden High proud in the future. When you have good kids like we have it makes it easier. We’re hoping with all these factors, it will lead to our having a good season.”

Quarterbacks: There will be no looking over the shoulder for senior Bryce Jeffcoat (6-0, 170) who started the first eight games a season ago and threw for 992 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for another four. The starting job is Jeffcoat’s and he plans to run with it and keep it for the entire year. “Bryce brings a lot of experience and leadership to the team. We’re excited to see what he can do this year,” Rimpf said. Junior Natron Smith (6-0, 165) led the CHS jayvees to a 7-2 mark last fall and a package to utilize his quickness and skill set has been implemented into the offense. The third quarterback is sophomore Jaffari Pearson (6-3, 205), who is coming off a collarbone injury. Pearson is the nephew of former Bulldog, Appalachian State and Canadian Football League standout quarterback Richie Williams

Running Backs: Gone is graduated Region 4-AAA offensive player of the year tailback Jericho Murphy, who rushed for 1,392 yards and 17 TDs last season while having gained nearly 3,000 yards and rushing for 36 touchdowns in his career. How do you replace that kind of production? Try with five backs. Senior Shymeik Corbett (5-10, 165) is the team’s fastest player and moves from slot receiver to tailback after having caught 26 passes for 357 yards. Seniors Deldrik Jones (5-9, 200) missed most of last season to illness and has added 40 pounds to his frame while Nathan Gallman (5-9, 205) is another bruising back who packs a punch. In the “dash” category are junior Mikah Davis (5-10, 175) who averaged better than two touchdowns a game in jayvee ball last year while sophomore Willis Lane (5-9, 175) is, pound-for-pound, one of the strongest players on the team and is in the mold of a Murphy. “All five of those guys will get carries for us,” Rimpf said of a ground game in which three backs may be on the field at one time in certain situations.

Receivers: Landon Goodwin (6-1, 185) is coming off a sophomore campaign in which he was second on the team with 21 catches for 264 yards and two TDs. Junior Davea’ Cauthen (6-1, 180) is back at the other starting wide out post after an injury-shortened sophomore season in which he was limited to five grabs for 91 yards and two trips into the end zone. Rimpf said his team did not get the ball to either player as much as they would have liked last season and look to rectify that this fall. “They’re pretty elusive and can makes things happen,” he said. “They’re tough pass-catchers but, they can also get on the edge and run ‘go’ routes for us and catch a fade on the sideline.” Senior Xavier Downing (5-6, 135) figures into the mix as does junior Jeremy Cotton (5-8, 150) along with a strong cast of young players who could see time on the varsity during the season.

Offensive Linemen: This unit could be the best offensive line in several seasons as offensive line coach Louis Clyburn has put together an experienced and solid unit. Senior Josh Barnes (6-2, 370) is a second-year starter who makes the move from left guard to left tackle. Classmate Caleb Huggins (6-2, 255) is a third-year starter at left guard. Another senior and third-year starter and All-4-AAA selection, Jason Harris (6-0, 330), anchors the line at center and is recovered from offseason labrum surgery and is a reliable snapper who understands the offense and the looks given by the opposing defense. There is a battle for the right guard post involving juniors Jerome Robinson (6-3, 255), a defensive jayvee lineman last season, and Banks Mosier (6-5, 270) who can play all five positions on the line and will play anywhere he is needed on the front. At right tackle, senior Derrick Leonard (6-4, 290) has had the most gains in the weight room over the past two years with his lifts increasing by 70 to 80 pounds. Junior Nick Peebles (5-11, 235) can play center or guard. “These are the guys we’re counting on,” Rimpf said. “The better they are, they better we are going to be on offense.”

Offensive Outlook: Camden will employ a “Mad Dog” offensive scheme which can have three backs behind Jeffcoat one play and can switch to a spread set the next. Rimpf said, technically, not much will change on that side of the football. “A lot of it will be similar. We’ll have different packages to try and highlight some of the guys on the team who have really improved. We’ll have a few different ways to run plays,” he said. “We lost the conference player of the year in Jericho Murphy. We lost some good players but we feel that we have a handful of running backs that can be on the field all at once and deserve reps.

“We expect the offense to do pretty well this year. They’ve gotten a lot of work in over the spring and summer. We have a lot of people who we have to get the ball to but, that’s a pretty good problem to have on offense.”

Defensive Linemen: Two seasons ago, Chase McKoy was a linebacker. As a junior, he was moved to the interior line. This year, the 5-11, 230-pounder has been moved to end to take advantage of his high-motor and smarts. “Chase can recognize the play quickly and he gets off blocks well,” Rimpf said. “He makes way more plays than he should because of being a good football player.” Senior Darrion Allen (6-0, 275) is the team’s strongest player and will be at tackle. At nose guard, the Dogs will have players who offer quickness --- senior Brice Williamson (6-0, 200) --- and bulk in junior transfer Alex Thrash (6-2, 315). Lining up on the outside is third-year starting senior end Javaris Holliday (6-3, 280) who Rimpf said has “been reliable and stepped up his game in the offseason.” Rotating in at end will be junior Clenzo Foreman (5-11, 220) and senior Jyheem Macklin (6-0, 185) while seniors Kionte Hayes (5-10, 240) and Jalyn Forbes (6-1, 240) add depth and experience along the interior.

Linebackers: Camden will find out if too much depth is a good thing at linebacker as is has six players going for three starting slots. Senior Blake Dalton (6-1, 205) returns at weakside backer with senior and AAA state runner-up wrestler Jalen Holliday (5-11, 185) having used a big spring and preseason to lock down the middle linebacker post. Senior James Dickerson (5-11, 185) used the same formula as Holliday to win the other outside linebacker spot. “That mike (middle) backer has to be a tackling machine,” Rimpf said of Holliday. “He has to get people to the ground and that is something Jalen’s really done a good job of doing.” Seniors Tyler Maxwell (6-1, 200) and Brock Dalton (6-1, 205) are coming off injuries and are trying to win back the starting jobs they had as juniors while juniors John Copley (6-1, 215) and Darius Peebles (6-3, 195) can be counted on to see action this season in a crowded rotation.

Defensive Backs: Four returning senior starters make this group one of the strongest on the squad. Rasheed Sutton (5-11, 160) is a returning all-region cornerback while Jalen Johnson (5-9, 170) plays the other side. “When the ball is in the air their way,” Rimpf said, “those guys think it’s their ball.” Devin Engram (5-10, 175) will be the “thumper” at strong safety with Jalyn DuBose (6-2, 205) patrolling at free safety after returning from a neck injury. Look for sophomores James Crim (5-7, 170) and Joseph Byrnes (6-1, 160) to find their way onto the field as CHS takes advantage of their athleticism and abilities.

Special Teams: In senior Bennett Caldwell (5-9, 155), the Dogs have a one-man special teams unit as he handles the PATS (30-31 in ’17), field goals (a pair of 33-yarders last season along with the punting (36.0 yard average) and kickoffs. “He was kind of our one stop shop in the kicking game,” Rimpf said. “It always makes it easier when you don’t have to worry about the kicking game.”

Defensive Outlook: With as many as 10 senior starters, Rimpf has high expectations from his defense in 2018. “We expect the defense to be the strength of our team. That group got better as the year went on last year,” he said. “We are almost bringing back the entire defense which bodes well for this year. We have a lot of depth on defense … probably the most depth I’ve ever had as a coach on defense. Our second group of linebackers can probably start on most of the teams that we’ll play. There is not much difference between the starting group. We have four senior starters in the secondary which, in high school football, is a good thing.”

Season Outlook: There is a sense of excitement and anticipation surrounding the Camden program and, with 27 seniors, for good reason. Rimpf said he wants to use the first six games of the season as a springboard for the four-game conference slate. “The expectation is to win the region. We finished third last year and were one game away from competing for the region championship. We want to host a state playoff game. Those are games that really matter,” he said. “The games at the beginning of the year, those are the fun games. Those are the ones that matter for bragging rights in the area with North Central and Lugoff-Elgin. We’re excited about proving ourselves against those guys each week and getting ready for region play.”

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