Decked out in new camouflaged-themed game jerseys in honor of Military Appreciation Night, Camden went old school in its 14-0 win over previously unbeaten Lancaster last Friday night at Zemp Stadium.
Having softened up the visiting Bruins’ defense with three pass plays in their opening drive which resulted in a touchdown, the Bulldogs left the game to their defense and a clock-chewing ground attack to help snap a two-game skid and give Jimmy Neal’s troops a 2-2 record heading into Friday’s non-region finale at Lakewood.
The shutout was the first registered by the Bulldogs since a 20-0 victory at Lakewood on Oct. 22, 2010. Camden allowed Lancaster 231 yards in offense on 52 snaps. But the hosts’ defense came up huge with DeSonta Cauthen returning a third quarter interception for a 71-yard touchdown to give the Dogs a two-touchdown cushion.
Senior safety Nelson Semple helped keep the shutout intact when he came flying off the left edge to block an LHS (3-1) field goal try on the night’s first drive. The blanking was preserved with a goal line stand midway through the fourth quarter.
“Our defense was outstanding,” Neal said after win number 122 at his high school alma mater. “We just kept standing tall.
“You’ve seen teams, at times with what Lancaster was putting us through, kind of wilt. Our guys didn’t wilt. We gave them some plays by not being where we were supposed to be and not doing what we were supposed to be doing. Hopefully, we’ll continue to learn from this and improve and, we’ll have a good week of practice.”
While their uniform tops were in a style which has become something of the rage in sports, Camden’s attack on this night was a throwback to the days of legendary CHS coach Red Lynch. The Dogs kept the ball on the ground for all but seven of their 42 plays and gained 95 yards rushing on 34 carries while junior Jaylen Nelson completed five of his eight pass attempts for 91 of his team’s 186 yards in offense.
“An old-fashioned football game is what it was,” Neal said with a smile. “We went out there and hung on.”
Lancaster posed the first threat of the evening on the game’s first series as the visitors used a 45-yard run from Kadarius Wright to set the Bruins up at the CHS 21. A Farricka Grier five-yard carry to the nine gave the guests a first and goal. On third and goal from the six, Semple broke through the line and dragged Wright down for a loss of two to set up a 25-yard field goal attempt by Trevor Latham. The kick never took flight, however, as Semple came up with his third block of the season just as the ball left Latham’s foot.
Taking over from their own eight, the Bulldogs would put together their longest and most impressive drive of the year in traveling 92 yards on nine plays.
Throwing four wide outs at the LHS defense in an empty backfield look, Nelson found Taylor Kelly for 16 yards on the first snap. One play later, he zipped a throw between defenders to 6-foot-4 wide out D.J. Wilson on a skinny post pattern which was good for a gain of 37 yards to the LHS 44.
Following a nine-yard Kendrice Slater carry, Nelson hit tight end Parker Rankin for 14 yards to the 21. Slater did the grunt work from there, getting the call five straight times with the final of those carries going down to the Bruins’ two. On third and inches, Jamar Byrd would get the call and for the fifth time on 19 touches on the season, the 211-pound junior fullback found his way into the end zone to give the Dogs a 6-0 lead, which went to 7-0 following Semple’s PAT kick, with 3:01 showing on the first quarter clock.
“We came out there with a little spread look,” Neal said of his team’s first offensive series. “We had the quads (four wide receivers) and we threw the ball out there. It was a neat thing. Jamar Byrd scores touchdowns and he did a great job of scoring on the wedge play. It gets you feeling good about things.
“We didn’t throw the ball that much, but we threw it very well early in the game.”
With the quick, first quarter lead, Neal turned this game over to his defense and the players on that side of the ball came up big. Junior defensive end Tyrone Kelly had a pair of first half sacks in a game which turned into a punting battle. The lone scoring threat in the second stanza came when CHS marched to the Lancaster 28 only to be rebuffed as the Bruins took over from their own 30 with 8:51 to play in the first half.
Carrying a seven-point cushion into the locker room, Neal implored his offense to get things going again as the Dogs would have the ball first to start the third quarter.
“We mentioned that we were not going to sit around and wait on 7-0; we have to be aggressive,” Neal said of his halftime talk to his squad. “We have to be attacking. That was the direction we planned to go. Then, they started blitzing us and bringing heat so we played it close to the vest. That last drive (of the game) was probably our best one of the second half.”
With the Bruins dialing up their defense, CHS went three and out on its first two drives. After the second punt, the visitors took over from their own 30.
Mixing in the passing game from quarterback Keendarius Truesdale with the running game, the Bruins used a 17-yard carry from Wright on the second play to get to the CHS 46. On fourth and a pair from the 38, Wright got the call and went for a gain of five. A snap later, a 32-yard Wright carry to the Bulldogs’ one was negated by a holding call against the Bruins.
After that near-miss, the Bruins decided to go up top again on first and 10 from the 33. This time, Cauthen jumped the route and stepped in front of intended receiver Jay Hood at the 29. Making the grab in full stride, the six-foot junior corner sprinted untouched in front of the LHS bench for the 71-yard pick six which gave the Dogs a 14-0 lead with 2:45 left in the third quarter.
The Bruins followed the second Bulldog score with their deepest penetration into CHS territory of the night. LHS took a squib kick from their own 41 and traveled to the Camden three in a drive which saw Truesdale leave the game with a leg injury after a first down carry from the Dogs’ 26.
Backup quarterback Darius Robinson stepped in under center and kept things moving by finding Wright out of the backfield for a gain of 13 to the 12. Two plays later, Robinson sent a five-yard throw over the middle to James Killian to set up a third and one from the three. The drive was scuttled when CHS defensive tackle Kelton Young crashed into the backfield to drill Wright for a loss of three at the seven. Under pressure, Robinson’s fourth down pass skidded across the grass in front of the end zone as the hosts took over on downs with 7:59 left in the game.
Doing nothing fancy, Camden kept the ball on the ground while eating up the clock. The Bulldogs went from their own seven to the LHS 35 on 11 plays before the horn sounded to end the contest.
For Neal and company, they were finally able to smile after a game for the first time since a Week Zero victory on Aug. 22. This win came after a two week layoff and was the Bulldogs’ first outing since a 48-9 loss to Hartsville which came after a turnover-plagued 41-27 setback at West Florence.
“You worry about your kids’ psyche a little bit because I think we have a chance to be pretty good,” Neal said after his players had exited the locker room. “We lost two straight to two quality teams and we felt like we gave one (West Florence) away.
“We had a couple tough weeks here and hadn’t done what we wanted to do. This was a great job, a great win.”
Bulldog Bites: Cauthen’s interception return for a touchdown concluded a big night for his family as his father, Billy Cauthen, was one of Camden’s honorary captains. A member of the military, the elder Cauthen had recently returned stateside after a hitch in Afghanistan … The Dogs wore their black pants and warmed-up in its regular black jerseys. Upon returning to the locker room, they saw their camo-themed tops with the American flag on each sleeve. “Our guys went crazy,” Neal said of the players’ reaction to the new uniforms which will be worn for one game in each of the next seven seasons … Slater led the CHS ground game with 74 yards on 22 carries while senior fullback Dillon Price added 25 yards on seven hauls while also catching a two-yard pass … Taylor Kelly led the Bulldog receivers with two grabs for 38 yards … Lancaster completed just seven of its 22 pass attempts for 59 yards.