Hartsville unleashed its big red and black threshing machine and put it a nearly identical effort against Camden as it did a year ago.
Last season in Kelleytown, the Red Foxes used a 247-yard, four touchdown night from Brian Rivers to upend the visiting Bulldogs, 41-7. In Friday’s home opener for Camden at Zemp Stadium, Rivers and wingback partner and fellow junior Shy McPhail combined for 271 yards and four touchdowns as the third-ranked guests left town with a 48-9 victory.
Rivers, who missed last week’s win over Lamar with a shoulder injury, scored on runs of 46 and 51 yards on his first two carries of the night in helping the guests spring to 13-0 lead in the game’s first eight minutes. McPhail did his damage after intermission as he went for an 80-yard scoring scamper on the first play from scrimmage in the second half before going in from 10 yards on his final carry. Hartsville closed the night with 435 yards in offense with 379 of those coming on the ground from 34 carries.
While it may appear that this contest was a carbon copy of last year’s pairing between the two longtime rivals, at least one observer took issue with that line of thinking.
“We hit them for a couple big plays early which allowed us to get up on them,” said Hartsville head coach Jeff Calabrese whose team improved to 3-0 on the season. “Certainly, Camden is a much-improved football team and we hit them early with a couple things. Brian (Rivers) got loose early and we wound up with the same result.
“I certainly think (Camden) Coach (Jimmy) Neal and them are doing a fabulous job and this thing is close to getting back for them. And how can I say that after a game like this? I can see it and he (Neal) can see it. It was a tough game and he has tough kids. Camden’s going to be fine and it was a good game for us. We’re excited about it.”
The loss was the second straight for the Bulldogs who have now lost five straight to their oldest rival. Playing without leading rusher Kendrice Slater, who watched from the sidelines in street clothes while nursing a bone bruise on his ankle, the Bulldogs struggled on offense to the tune of 53 yards rushing in 30 attempts. Junior quarterback Jaylen Nelson, who split time with under center with sophomore Devin Beckley, threw for all 85 of the hosts’ passing yards on a 10-for-14 night.
The Red Foxes ran the trap to perfection and its stable of speedy junior backs found seams in the defense and once past the first wave of defenders, they simply outran the Bulldogs to the end zone.
“We just weren’t quite in position a few times and they hit us for the big plays,” said Neal. “They’re explosive and they did a great job. You can work on that stuff all you want to but they’re very good at it. We’re not able to cut loose and use our speed and athleticism on defense the way you would like.
“It was a tough game, a rough game and a physical game. We just have to become better.”
Camden’s struggles started early as the Bulldogs took the opening kickoff and methodically moved into Red Fox territory. But an illegal procedure penalty against the hosts followed by a botched snap from center on a miscommunication with the snap count resulted in a loss of 19 yards as Camden found itself staring at a third and 33 from its own 33.
Hartsville wasted little time in finding its groove as on its third play from scrimmage, Rivers took a handoff from quarterback Matt Lynch and went inside before bouncing the play to his left as he won the foot race with his pursuers for a 46-yard scoring run as the guests took a 6-0 lead with 5:15 left following a bad snap from center on the PAT kick.
After a quick three and out and a 23-yard punt, the Foxes were in business again at their own 49. Nine seconds and 51-yard later, it was Rivers in the end zone again, this time going through the middle of the defense for the score and a 13-0 Hartsville lead with 4:16 to play in a first quarter which ended that way.
Trying to settle down, the Dogs held on a fourth and six from their own 46 as Darius Smith broke up a Lynch pass to give the ball back to the offense.
Nelson, who opened the game with four straight completions, kept this drive going when he found Taylor Kelly with a 10-yard pass to the HHS 24 on fourth and seven. A roughing the passer penalty moved the ball to the 12 as the Dogs were on the move. But the momentum stopped when Red Fox defensive back Tre Cooks batted a pass into the air and came down with the ball at his own 15. He then took off to his right and sailed home with the 85-yard pick-six as the guests went on top 20-0 at the 8:16 marker of the second stanza.
“That was huge,” Calabrese said of Cooks’ interception return. “At that point, Camden was making its roll and was when the stone started turning.”
Between the bad snap on the first drive and coming away empty early in the second quarter, Camden’s shooting itself in the foot helped open the door for the Red Foxes.
“That first drive, it was self-inflicted (wounds),” Neal said. “We were driving down the field then, all of a sudden, we had a procedure call and then the coaches were trying to communicate and we got all out of kilter and we snapped the ball (over the quarterback’s head.)
“We had things on the move and had them off-balance, a little bit. We just didn’t make the plays. We had some drives and some first downs and we had some passes where we didn’t hit (our receivers) like we should have. That’s just part of it. Those young guys, that’s where they are; they’re going to make plays and they are going to make some bad plays.”
After four unsuccessful series, Camden got into a rhythm on offense when it set up shop at its own 33 following the kickoff after Cooks’ score.
Tailback Ethan Harris broke off a 17-yard run for a first down to the HHS 43 on a second and three carry. Two snaps later, Nelson hooked up with D.J. Wilson for 15 yards to the 28 before finding Jamar Byrd out of the backfield for nine yards on a third and 12 from the 30. Facing a fourth and three, Nelson’s hard count drew the Red Fox defense offside.
On first and 10 from the 16, Harris took the handoff from Nelson and appeared to be stopped near the 10. But the 5-foot-6, 155-pounder never stopped churning his legs as he kept on going and was nearly crawling in diving into the end zone for the touchdown. Nelson Semple followed with the PAT kick to make it 20-7 with 3:54 to go before the break.
Hartsville stuck a dagger into Camden’s comeback chances with a six-play, 80-yard scoring march which included 20-yard runs from Rivers, McPhail and sophomore back James Clair, the latter of whom would do the scoring honors with a five-yard carry for a 27-7 lead with 74 seconds left in the first half.
Needing to have something good happen to start the second half, Camden’s hopes went south as McPhail sprinted 80 yards to paydirt on a trap play on the first play from scrimmage as the lead ballooned to 34-7.
For a Camden team which needed a defensive stop and then, get something going on offense to get back into the game, the second half could not have gotten off to a worse start.
“They stroked it on us,” Neal said of McPhail’s dash. “They hit it. They’re fast and if we’re not where we were supposed to be, they can do that.”
For all its quick-strike scores, the Red Foxes would go on a lengthy 63-yard scoring effort which ate up nearly seven minutes as the 14-play drive was capped by McPhail’s 10-yard scoring run with 3:04 left in the third. The drive was extended when Camden had another self-inflicted wound as DeSonta Cauthen’s 85-yard interception return for a touchdown was negated when Camden was called for a roughing the passer call as the Red Foxes maintained possession of the ball at the Bulldogs’ 11.
Camden would get on the scoreboard early in the fourth quarter when a snap to HHS punter Jake Gates sailed over his head. Rather than allowing the hosts to recover the ball deep in Red Fox territory, Gates kicked the ball the other way and over the wall at Zemp Stadium for a safety to make it 41-9 with 9:51 to play in the game.
The Red Foxes put the icing on the cake when sophomore tailback Jalen Jacobs went 35 yards for the score on another trap play with 5:10 remaining.
After having allowed better than 40 points for two straight weeks, the Bulldogs have a bye week before hosting Lancaster on Sept. 19. Neal said the open week could not have come at a better time for his troops.
“I think we need this,” he said of the week off. “We need to lick our wounds, a little bit, and come back out of this. I do think that we played some of our toughest opponents of the year. But I also think my expectation was for us to be on that level. Obviously, we’re not there, yet.
“I expect more from our defense all the time and we didn’t do it. But I do think that this team will be a good football team before it’s all said and done.”
Bulldog Bites: Hartsville ran just 15 first half plays --- 11 rushing --- to score 27 points … Camden’s 138 yards in offense were, by far, its lowest total of the young season … Harris led all CHS rushers with 44 yards on nine carries while scoring his second touchdown in as many weeks. After him, junior classmate Jamar Byrd went for 17 yards on nine carries. He also caught a pass for nine yards … For the Red Foxes, Rivers ran for 141 yards on five carries and was rested for most of a second half in which he had one carry for 11 yards. McPhail went for 130 yards on nine calls while Clair had six carries for 62 yards … D.J. Wilson led the Dogs in receiving on the night as he hauled in five Nelson aerials for 40 yards. In three games,he has a team-best 13 catches for 207 yards … Taylor Kelly had three grabs for 28 yards in the game ... Hartsville brought a large crowd to Zemp Stadium which outnumbered those sitting on the home side.