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Dogs look to bounce back against high-flying Vols

Posted: September 22, 2011 1:54 p.m.
Updated: September 23, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Officially, tonight’s game with Andrew Jackson marks homecoming for Camden High School.

Not so officially, this contest will be a gut-check for a Bulldog squad which has lost two games in a row, including last week’s 35-20 setback against rival Lugoff-Elgin.

While the Dogs have struggled since a 45-28 win over Ware Shoals in their second game, the visiting Volunteers have hit their stride. David Moore’s charges come into this game riding a three-game win streak after opening the season with a loss to 4A rival Lancaster.

Camden head coach Jimmy Neal was among those who took in AJ’s 42-14 win over North Central two weeks ago. Count the Bulldogs’ boss as among those in attendance who came away impressed with the Volunteers and their big-play potential on offense.

Moore’s troops can utilize Gavin Clyburn, Ryan Phillips and Quincey Grier at quarterback while tailback Javaris Clyburn is a swift, durable back. On the outside the Vols have a burner in wide out Bobby Delly and a 6-foot-5 match-up nightmare in Quadarius Farr. Grier and Gavin Clyburn also can move to the outside at receiver.

"They’re real scary," Neal said of that group. "They might have the best skill players that we’ve seen this year. They can run, run, run. They’re fast and they do a great job of getting on the perimeter against you."

On the other side of the coin, while the aforementioned group makes plays on offense, they also help stop plays on defense as they start on that side of the football, as well, with Phillips playing inside linebacker.

Neal said that he has not seen much slacking off from those players on either side of the ball.

"They use their athletes and play a lot of guys both ways and it’s really not a disadvantage to them," Neal said. "It doesn’t seem like they get tired. Their skill players are a major concern for us."

The Volunteers have mainly operated out of the spread formation, although that which they run is not identical to that which Camden employs. AJ will also line up in the double-wing, the pistol and other formations, making things tough on the Bulldog defense and their defensive staff.

"We just have to keep working at it and practice against it," Neal said. "Our guys are pretty resilient. They learn and they listen. You just have to show them all the looks that they might see this week."

One way CHS may be able to disrupt the timing of the AJ passing game is by getting a good pass rush on whoever is playing quarterback. That area of his team’s defense has been a sticking point for Neal since the season’s first game.

"When and if we blitz them," he said, "we really need to get back there and make plays because those guys are fast and they’re going to get open. Their receivers will get open if you give their quarterback enough time.

"In a perfect world, we’d like to get to them with our four-man rush. That would really benefit us if we could drop seven (into coverage) and only use four to rush."

Camden is hoping tonight will be the time that its offense begins to click again. In the past two games, the Dogs have scored two offensive touchdowns. The hosts must also be able to sustain drives, which has been a problem as their 21 percent conversion rate on third down plays would indicate.

Another bugaboo in the early going for Camden is holding onto the ball. In the season’s first quartet of games, the Bulldogs are minus (-4) four in the turnover battle as they have given the ball up 11 times while having seven takeaways.

Tonight, CHS will go up against a unique AJ defensive scheme which will have familiar names and faces on that side of the ball.

The Vols will have their best athletes switching over from offense to the defensive secondary. AJ will use seven players to try and stop the run while the four defensive backs will bear the brunt of guarding the receivers. A week ago, in a 30-6 win over St. John’s of John’s Island, the Volunteers used a suffocating defense in holding the Islanders to 65 yards in total offense.

"It’s interesting," Neal said of the Volunteers’ defensive philosophy. "They do a good job with what they like to do.

"As we see it, it’s kind of a cross between a 4-3 and a 4-2-5 look. It might be just a 4-3 and the adjustment that they’re making off it, depending on what other teams like to do. They usually do have a four-man front in there."

With a group of strong skilled players coming in, Neal and company have made some minor adjustments to try and slow the Volunteers down. "We made some minor tweaks and changes and things like that; nothing major. But our guys did a good job in preparing for this game," he said.

With this game coming after a loss to rival Lugoff-Elgin, Neal said that when the Bulldogs returned to practice on Monday, they showed little lingering effects from that setback.

"Obviously, we’ll know more about that on Friday night. But we had a really good week of practice. Our guys came out there ready to go and we felt good about it," he said.

What would make Neal and company feel better is to put an end to their skid and head into next week’s Region 6-AAA opener against Crestwood with a second win under their collective belt.

"Obviously, we need to get a win; it would be important for us. But what we have to do is to continue to get better and continue to work at it," Neal said.

"Our young men’s attitudes have been outstanding; to have lost two straight games like we have, they still come out there and try to get better and they’re still improving. Everybody on this team has hung in there.

"You feel good about this team. You want good things to happen for them because they sure deserve it."

Any change as to the day and time of the contest may be heard over Kool 102.7 FM this afternoon/evening.

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