As his team gathered in the end zone for their pre-game entrance, North Central head football coach Louis Clyburn said, to no one in particular, that the first series of Friday’s game with visiting Camden would go a long way toward telling what kind of night it would be the hosts.
Turns out, the eighth-year Knights’ head coach and Camden High graduate was half right as both teams failed to get into the end zone with their first offensive possessions. But the Bulldogs would cash in on their next four in breezing to a 46-12 victory in Boonetown.
The win was the second in as many outings for Jimmy Neal’s troops which went over the 40-point mark in consecutive games for the first time since knocking off Wilson and Darlington in back-to-back weeks in October of 2009.
NC, which has a bye this week, saw its record evened at 1-1 while falling for the fifth time in as many meetings against the AAA Bulldogs.
For the second straight week, the Dogs did not turn the ball over as Devin Beckley clicked on 13 of his 18 passes for 251 of Camden’s 501 yards in total offense. The senior quarterback threw for three touchdowns while scoring one of his own in the offensive display.
“I thought we played really well,” Neal said following the win. “They had some good stuff for us and made us adjust to it. They had a good game plan for us. We just had to adjust and figure out what they were doing. Our guys figured it out and played hard and, that’s all you can ask.”
For the Knights, they had 229 yards in offense thanks to senior tailback Cedrick Cunningham, who had 149 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.
The die was cast early on for the Knights who used a 21-yard Tyler Faulkenberry to Zach Jones pass on the fifth play of the night for a first down at the Camden 26. Facing a fourth and 17 from the 33, a botched pitch went for a loss of 14 which stopped the drive.
Camden did nothing on its opening series which saw a 49-yard Beckley to Avery Barnes scoring pass called back after Beckley went beyond the line of scrimmage before making the throw.
Cunningham, whose first five carries of the night went for a combined minus (-11) yards, broke loose for a 25-yard scamper to the Camden 39 on his sixth attempt. The drive fizzled when Faulkenberry was forced from the pocket by linebacker Jamal Murphy on fourth down incompletion as the guests took over for the second time from their own 38.
“The first few drives,” Clyburn said, “I thought we just missed on a few opportunities. As a staff, we have to do a better job of getting our team ready.
“Coming in, we talked about eliminating big plays and making big plays. In the first half, that was where the imbalance was. Again, our timing was a little bit off. Tyler (Faulkenberry), Zach (Jones) and all those guys repping at quarterback are getting better but that’s my job to help get that timing a little better. Certainly, there were plays there that we could have hit and we missed a couple of them. I have to do a better job of coaching them up and getting that timing down because our kids are willing to work.”
Instead, it was Camden which made the big plays.
After finding Barnes with a 12-yard pass to open the second series, Beckley spotted Jo Jo Watson on a tunnel screen for a gain of 19 yards on third and 11 from the NC 47. Three snaps later, on third and eight from the 26, Beckley spotted Jericho Murphy out of the backfield with a screen pass. The 193-pound junior hauled in the pass, broke a tackle and went into the end zone for the game’s first score. NC snuffed out the two-point conversion play to keep it a 6-0 game at the 3:33 mark of the first quarter.
NC’s inexperience at quarterback proved costly after getting the ball back with Faulkenberry’s rushed fly pattern pass to Jones being picked off by Ryland Ayers, who came up with the interception after juggling the ball at the CHS 36. The junior cornerback was finally dragged down at the NC 15 following Camden’s fifth interception of the season.
The play was one which put momentum firmly on the CHS sideline.
“After that, it seemed like everything was going our way,” said Neal whose troops carried a 27-0 lead into halftime. “Ryland was where he was supposed to be and doing what he was supposed to do. I was proud of him. That was a big play.”The Knights, who lost starting quarterback Michael Williamson to a season-ending shoulder injury during a pre-season scrimmage, are trying to find the right blend under center and, Clyburn said, his team’s inexperience at that position showed on the underthrown pass.“It’s a touchdown. Tyler just rushed it,” he said of the play. “He had gotten some pressure the play before and with a young quarterback, that’s a common mistake. It’s my job to get him better and coach him to take one more step back and then release the ball because there was no one within 10 yards of Zach Jones if we put a little more air under that pass.”It took three straight Lance McCray carries for Camden to travel 15 yards with the 190-pound junior crashing in from a yard out for the touchdown on second and goal. Will Warnock booted home the extra point and with 1:51 showing on the first quarter clock, the Dogs were off and running with a 13-0 lead.Things started getting ugly following an NC punt to the Camden 26. Murphy, who was only asked to carry the ball seven times, ran for 47 of his 81 yards rushing on the night with a first down carry to the NC 27. Two plays later, Beckley looked to his right and hit Barnes with a pass with the senior wide out breaking through a set of tackles on his way into the end zone for the 20-0 lead at the 10:06 mark of the second quarter.Another forced punt returned the ball to the Dogs at their own 49. A methodical, 11-play scoring drive followed with Beckley keeping the drive going with a nine-yard pass to freshman Davea’ Cauthen on a third and seven from the NC 48. Runs of four and eight yards from McCray on consecutive carries set the ball at the one with Beckley doing the honors to cap the march which gave the guests a 27-0 with 5:49 left in a half which ended that way.Camden put this one well out of reach in taking the second half kick and marching 67 yards on four plays in a drive in which Beckley and Watson hooked up on a gain of 41 yards to the Knights’ 25. After a 23-yard Deldrik Jones carry, Murphy went in from the two on the next play to make it 34-0 with 10:58 left in the third.With so many offensive weapons, Neal said it makes it hard for a defense to try and decide which part of the game to take from the Bulldogs’ fast-paced scheme.“It is hard for people to key on us,” he said. “Lance (McCray) runs so low, Devin (Beckley) makes good decisions and Jericho (Murphy) is so special. And those wide receivers … we’re running the right offense for what we have.“I thought it was going to be zero man and man-free and that they would bring the house against us every time. They did a good bit of that but we saw a lot of that on tape.”Switching quarterbacks in the middle of their opening drive of the second half, the Knights went with a wildcat look with Jones calling the signals. On his first play taking the snap, the 6-foot, 200-pound senior took off for a 22-yard run to the Camden 42. He then went up top and found sophomore Markel Pate with a pretty 29-yard pass for a first down at the 19.One first down from there, Jones went for seven yards on a keeper before Cunningham ran for eight more yards. Jones ended the nine-play, 59-yard scoring series with a two-yard scoring plunge which made it 34-6 with all fivesd showing on the third quarter clock.The Bulldogs needed just two plays and 40 seconds to answer that score with Beckley finding Shymeik Corbett in the seam with the speedy sophomore sprinting into the end zone with the 68-yard pass play which hiked the lead to 40-6.NC made another change at quarterback with Cunningham getting the direct snap from center. He would go for a25 yards to the NC 45 on a second and 25 carry from his own 30 before sprinting down the NC sideline with a keeper which was good for a 55-yard touchdown run as the deficit was trimmed to 40-12 with 1:51 left in the third.Neal saw enough of Cunningham on both sides of the ball to come away impressed.“I thought we did a great job on him early,” he said. “He’s special, don’t get me wrong. He’s a really good player. That run he made down their sideline for a touchdown was a really great run.“He’s just a tough, hard-nosed kid.”Camden closed the scoring with 7:40 left in the game with Brice Jeffcoat directing an eight-play, 44-yard drive in which he hit Watson with a 13-yard pass for a first down at the NC 18. The same pair combined on a 14-yard pass play which led to McCray’s three-yard scoring run.Playing several players on both sides of the football took its toll on the Knights on a hot night in which it took more than 40 minutes for the first quarter to be completed. Clyburn said he knew his team would be behind the 8-ball in that respect in going against a CHS squad which has 11 different players on each side of the football.The rapid tempo favored by the Bulldogs wore the hosts down as the night went on.“Absolutely,” Clyburn said, “we practiced (Camden’s tempo) all week in practice. I would have done the same thing if I were them. Certainly, their two-platooning and our having to play a lot of guys both ways played a factor in this game. I would be naïve if I thought that wasn’t a factor tonight.“I was proud of our guys who went both ways. We’ve been preaching about toughness and accountability and our kids battled through it. We’re in great shape.”You can count Neal as among those in the camp of liking what he sees from Knights while also crediting his own defense for taking control of this game early.“I thought North Central played hard. They have some good kids over there. I think they have a good chance to have a successful season,” he said being praising a starting Bulldog defensive unit which held the Knights to 88 yards in offense in the first half before giving way to reserves in the latter part of the game.“Our guys on defense are playing hard and making guys have to block them. We’re flying to the ball and if they miss their block at all, our guys are getting to the ball. We’re getting downhill and playing more physical. We still have to play lower but we’ll watch tape and I might be wrong.”While Camden returns to action to face rival Hartsville in Friday’s home opener at Zemp Stadium, North Central has the week off. Clyburn said that given his team’s having to change things on offense due to Williamson’s injury, the bye week could not have come at a better time.“With those quarterbacks,” he said, “it’s all about getting more reps and having an open week (this) week is going to be huge for us so that those guys can really get into getting some reps and getting into some pass skel and getting their timing down. Obviously, we have a good running game but we’re going to have to be able to throw the ball so that people can’t load the box on us.”
Game notes: Camden’s Jamal Murphy suffered an ankle injury in chasing Faulkenberry on the Knights’ second offensive series. The junior linebacker was taken from the field by ambulance with what was said to have been a dislocated ankle. There is a possibility, if all goes well, that he could be playing again this season … In a quality display of sportsmanship, NC’s DeAunte Samuel and DaShon Bethea went onto the field and over to check on Murphy while he was lying on the ground. Both Knight players patted the injured Bulldog on the back and shoulder and offered encouragement before Murphy was placed on a stretcher … After Barnes had a big night receiving against Lugoff-Elgin in the opener, it was Watson’s turn to shine on Friday as the senior had six catches for 118 yards …Faulkenberry completed seven of his 17 pass attempts for 29 yards while Jones completed his only pass of the game for 29 yards. Jones also caught four passes for 30 yards and ran the ball seven times for 37 yards … In its game with L-E, Camden was called for 18 penalties which resulted in 140 lost yards. Friday, the Bulldogs were whistled four times and had 37 yards walked off against them in a well-played and clean game on both sides … CHS held a 21-13 edge in first downs … In addition to running for 149 yards, Cunningham had 57 return yards while adding eight tackles from his position in the secondary which included his shadowing Barnes for the majority of the contest.