Hartsville at Camden
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.
Records: HHS: 2-0; CHS: 1-1
Series record: CHS leads, 46-37-4
Last meeting: HHS, 41-7, 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, Sept. 13 at 9 a.m.
The Skinny: This is Camden’s home season opener and marks the 85th consecutive season in which the Bulldogs have played their home games at historic Zemp Stadium, the oldest high school stadium in use in South Carolina … Tonight marks the 88th meeting of what may well be the oldest ongoing high school football rivalry in the state. The series began with a 31-0 Camden victory in 1922 … The Red Foxes have won the last five meetings with Camden. The Dogs’ most recent win over Hartsville was a 38-14 victory in 2009 … The Red Foxes have beaten Central and Lamar by a combined 87-12 count in their first two games which included a 62-12 thrashing over Lamar a week ago … HHS junior defensive tackle Juwan Harmon (6-1, 305) played for Camden last season and took part in spring practice with the Bulldogs and was to have been a key component of the defensive line. But he and his family moved to Hartsville the first day of pre-season practice.
Like an image seen in a car’s rear-view mirror, Camden’s view of the back of Brian Rivers’ jersey got smaller and smaller with each passing carry.
Tonight, the Bulldogs would like to keep the Hartsville junior tailback in front of them as they kick off their 2014 home campaign between the blocks at historic Zemp Stadium.
A year ago in Kelleytown, the 5-foot-7, 170-pound Rivers sliced and diced his way to a 247-yard, four-touchdown night against Camden in helping the Red Foxes to a 41-7 victory.
Rivers sat out last week’s 62-12 dismantling of Lamar with an injury. In his place, classmate Shy McPhail (5-6, 165) went for 74 yards while sophomore James Clair piled up 89 rushing yards and 38 more from quarterback Matt Lynch as the Foxes piled up 612 yards in offense on a night in which seven different players found their way into the end zone for the winners.
Coming off a 41-27 loss to West Florence in which his team missed too many tackles, Camden head coach Jimmy Neal left little doubt as to what priority one is for his 1-1 squad tonight against the state’s third-ranked team in this week’s AAA football poll.
“Obviously, we have to be better tacklers,” he said. “We weren’t as good tacklers last week as we should have been. That’s something which is very important to us.”
As crazy as it may sound, one of Camden’s biggest problems in its inability to corral Rivers last year was the CHS defenders getting into the Red Fox backfield and overrunning the ball carrier with Rivers scoring on runs of eight, 29, 12 and 54 yards, respectively.
“Last year,” Neal said, “one or two of our position players were getting upfield too much. We have to do a better job of playing off blocks and being in better position. You can’t just race upfield against these guys or, they will gash you like they did to us last year.”
Led by Rivers, his backfield colleagues and second-year starting quarterback Matt Lynch, the Red Fox offense has hardly skipped a beat in two routs to open the season, despite losing three starters from last season’s Region 6 champions.
Having toyed with both Central and Lamar to open the season, Jeff Calabrese’s offense has had time to work on its passing game once getting the big lead and doing enough damage on the ground. Neal said the leads have allowed Hartsville to “practice” its passing attack. In last year’s win over Camden, Lynch completed his lone pass attempt, good for eight yards in the second half.
Neal said not much has changed on that side of the ball for the Foxes.
“They are just that good on offense,” said the CHS boss. “I hate to talk about the past, but they big-played us last year. They didn’t pass a whole lot. They had a lot of no gain, no gain and then, a 50-yard run. We have to prevent that and don’t give up the big play against them.
“They have a lot of the same people back on offense for them, except for the tight end. They have very good running backs and a good offensive line.”
Defensively, the Red Foxes registered five shutouts a season ago and the visitors are looking good on that side of the football this time around, as well. In junior inside linebacker Datavious Wilson (6-2, 220), Hartsville has a game-changer who spearheads an attacking 3-4 defensive set.
“They’re good in a lot of places and they play hard,” Neal said of the Red Fox defense.
“The problem with playing Hartsville and, we’re hoping it’s the same way when you play Camden, is that you might get blocked, but you don’t stay blocked. They don’t stay blocked and they fight like crazy to get off their blocks. They don’t accept getting blocked.”
As for the Bulldogs, they come home after a loss in West Florence in which they held a 15-7 second quarter lead before the host Knights outscored the guests, 36-7, until the visitors received a 79-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Ethan Harris with one minute left on the game clock.
Neal said his team showed a lot of resolve when they returned to the practice field for Monday evening’s practice.
“We’ve had a good week of practice,” Neal said when asked of his team’s demeanor. “Our guys were very disappointed with what happened last week and felt like we let one get away. But they’ve responded well and responded the way that you would hope they would.”
Part of last week’s problems could be traced back to the Bulldogs having an inevitable letdown following an emotional victory over Lugoff-Elgin in Week Zero. That game is now history, however. And there is nothing like preparing to face a state power and a longtime Camden rival in Hartsville to get the Bulldogs refocused.
In fact, Neal said, this may be the perfect time for Hartsville to appear on Camden’s schedule.
“It does help,” he said of the Red Foxes aiding with his team’s concentration, “because they know the quality of opponent they are and how good Hartsville is. They’re excited about the chance to play those guys. We have goals and aspirations just like everybody else does and we’re hoping that we go out there, have some success and let the chips fall where they may. We hope it works out for us.”