A.C. Flora at Camden
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.
Records: ACF: 5-0; CHS: 2-3
Series record: CHS leads, 17-5
Last meeting: CHS, 34-33, in 2013
Radio-Internet: Kool 102.7 FM, www.kool1027.com (click on CHS logo), beginning with the pre-game show at 7 p.m.
TV: Tonight’s game will be re-broadcast on TruVista Cable Channel 39 next Wednesday at 8 p.m. and again on Saturday, Oct. 11 at 9 a.m.
The Skinny: Tonight marks Homecoming at Camden High School, a tradition which first started at the school in 1947 … Camden senior outside linebacker Tyrel Smith had 20 tackles (14 solos) in last week’s 24-0 loss to Lakewood. That figure led the team in that category … The visiting Falcons have scored 40, 41 and 41 points in their last three games and rang up a season-best 516 yards in offense in a balanced attack which saw Reggie Shaw’s squad rush for 310 yards while passing for another 210 … The Bulldogs’ one-point win over A.C. Flora last year in Columbia came after the Falcons pinned an 84-51 loss on CHS at Zemp in 2012. The combined 135 points remains a state record.
What a difference a week or, in this case, a game makes.
At this time last Friday, Camden was looking to air the ball out more after having thrown just eight passes in the previous week’s 14-0 win over Lancaster. The Bulldogs did just that in last week’s game at Lakewood, to the tune of 38 passes while rushing for just 16 yards on 18 carries in a 24-0 loss.
Suffice to say, Jimmy Neal’s charges must be balanced in both aspects on offense and then will probably need their best defensive effort of the season when high-flying and unbeaten A.C. Flora comes to historic Zemp Stadium for tonight’s Region 4-AAA opener which coincides with Homecoming.
Having posted a home field shutout two Fridays ago and having been blanked on the road last week, consistency has been the buzzword around the CHS practice fields this week.
That, however, has not been the biggest news to come from the sessions. After studying films from the Lakewood debacle, the CHS staff decided on giving Devin Beckley the start at quarterback tonight. Last week, the 6-foot-3, 185-pound sophomore threw for 111 of the Dogs’ 152 passing yards after coming in to replace junior starter Jaylen Nelson at halftime in a game in which the guests put the ball up top 38 times, completing 16 of those attempts.
“We have a plan to do the best we can against A.C. Flora and that’s one of the reasons we decided to let Devin know on Monday that he was going to be the starter this week,” Neal said of the switch in his team’s field general. “We made that choice and went with it. Obviously, Jaylen’s not happy about it and I’d be upset with him if he was.
“Devin has had a really good week of practice and, Jaylen’s had a good week of practice, too.”
Neal is hoping that Beckley can jump-start an offense which has scored just two touchdowns over the course of the past 12 quarters. While Beckley gets the reins handed to him tonight, Nelson will be waiting in the wings.
“We plan every week for Devin to get in there but Jaylen’s going to have the opportunity to play Friday night, if the situation warrants it,” said the Bulldog boss. “We planned on doing it both ways.”
Regardless of who is taking the snaps, they will be part of a flushing out process which began in the moments following last Friday’s setback in Sumter. In his post-game talk, Neal told his troops that their goals were still intact. Among those was a return to the state playoffs and that journey begins this evening with the start of the five-week conference campaign.
Neal said his players have bought into tonight kicking off a new season.
“Of course they were very disappointed with the game; they were disappointed in themselves and with the situation there were in last week,” he said. “But they came back Monday and had a great day of lifting and a great day of practice. It’s been an outstanding week. That’s who they are. They come out here and do their best.
“We tell them we have to become more consistent and get better day-by-day.”
Looking at the film from the loss to the Gators did not hold many surprises for the CHS staff which saw, for the second time, what derailed the offense the first time. Neal said while establishing the ground game to open the passing lanes and giving the defense more time to rest is important so, too, is the execution of the offensive game plan against the Falcons.
“We have to be able to run the ball and be able to move the ball,” Neal said. “We had so many things that we thought we could do last week and we didn’t execute them and do what we hoped to do; whether it was missing receivers, dropped balls or, missed assignments. That’s all part of it. We’ll try to be balanced running and throwing it.”
The Dogs will need to be clicking tonight against an athletic and fifth-ranked A.C. Flora squad which has Division I recruits in senior defensive back/tailback Rion Davis (6-1, 186) and wide receiver/strong safety Denzel Johnson (6-2, 195). Junior quarterback Brandon Greene (6-1, 185) is a threat both with his arm and legs while senior kicker/punter Joseph Charlton has already committed to South Carolina to play and gives the guests a weapon on special teams.
“They have some very good skill players in the secondary and at wide receiver,” Neal said of Flora’s athleticism. “They have some guys who can run.
“They are really good on the defensive front and on the offensive front. They execute the passing game very well. They do a good job of calling plays and putting themselves in the best position possible.”
The Falcons come to town having outscored their first five opponents by an average score of 34-11. Their defense has posted one shutout (over Clinton) while having allowed a touchdown each to Columbia and Airport.
After having allowed Lugoff-Elgin to run up and down the field against them in the Camden Shrine Club Jamboree in August, the Falcon defense has shaped up. “At the jamboree, they gave up yards like crazy but other teams aren’t doing that to them,” Neal said of Reggie Shaw’s defensive unit.
“You kind of wonder sometimes about their defense,” Neal added. “They’re running a 4-3, a 3-5-3 and the 50. They are giving you all three looks and a lot of times when people are doing that, you wonder what are they protecting or, what are they hiding, if that’s what they’re doing. But it might be the plan that Coach Shaw and his staff wants to do.
“What we do know is that they’re playing well and they’re doing a good job.”