Jimmy Neal has been around Camden High football long enough to know what is thought to be a harbinger of bad things for the upcoming regular season is winning your portion of the Camden Shrine Club Football Jamboree.
So, as the 16th year Bulldog boss and Camden native watched the clock strike zero --- with the scoreboard reading the same --- in Friday night’s jamboree finale with Ridge View, Neal almost breathed a sigh of relief at the scoreless deadlock.
As he looked back on jamborees past, Neal laughed in recalling one contest in which his scored in the waning seconds of the game to come away with the victory. It was not greeted all-too-warmly by those who knew of the team’s woes after a jamboree win.
“I remember one jamboree where we recovered a fumble down here,” he said in pointing toward the east end zone at Zemp Stadium, “and we scored and won the game ... and people were mad that we won that night.”
There was no chance of that occurring on this end to a long evening in which either side sniffed the end zone. The closest each team would get came in a matter of seconds when the Blazers’ Rakeem Perry picked off a CHS pass at his own seven and returned the interception deep into Bulldog territory only to have the ball brought back to the RV 16 after the guests were flagged for an illegal use of hands penalty.
Camden’s lone threat on that stunted marched started at the Blazers’ 32 after defensive end Tyrone Kelly pounced on a RV fumble. The hosts picked up their initial first down of the night midway through the first quarter when Devin Beckley found a sliding D.J. Wilson with a three-yard pass on a fourth and three call from the 23.
RV had one drive into Bulldog territory late in the contest against Camden’s third string defense as the Blazers used a 20-yard Kito Weaver carry to the CHS 35 to keep the drive going. But the Dogs knocked Weaver back on fourth and inches from the 26 to preserve the shutout with 2:58 remaining in the contest.
Camden’s first, second and third team defensive units allowed just 43 yards in 20 snaps in the 254-minute pairing.
“Our defense has played very well. We’re very proud of them,” Neal said. “They have to keep us in it. We also feel good about our offense, we’re going to be OK there.”
Offensively, Camden managed 41 yards on 25 snaps with junior tailback Jamar Byrd going for 15 yards on three carries to lead a ground game which had 23 yards in 13 carries while working behind an offensive line which was without two starters who Neal expects to have back for today’s practice. Rotating four quarterbacks, the Dogs received the most production from freshman Campbell Jordan who hooked up with classmate Jerico Murphy on two occasions for 15 of Camden’s 18 yards in the air.
Neal said his coaching staff reached its one main goal in the jamboree. He thanked RV head coach Raymond Jennings for having the same objective going into Friday.
“I’m very, very pleased and very happy,” Neal said of his overall impression of the evening. “I appreciate Coach Jennings for doing what he did. We had the good fortune of being able to get everybody in the game. At least the mommas are happy tonight, anyway.”
As he took in all four of the games, the one which caught Neal’s eye was that which preceded the finale in which Region 4-AAA rival A.C. Flora had its hands full with Lugoff-Elgin, which hosts Camden in Friday’s season opener.
“Watching the third game and seeing Lugoff-Elgin running up and down the field and throwing the ball all over the place …,” Neal said. “They have a bunch of good weapons and some real good running backs who are doing some good stuff. We’ve got our hands full; we have a mess on our hands is what we’ve got for (this) week.
“I was real impressed with the job their coaches and players have done to this point. They were real sharp tonight.”