The Valdosta Daily Times
Three first quarter turnovers led to 14 points for the Camden Wildcats, who defeated the Lowndes Vikings 28-7 in Kingsland on Friday night.
Lowndes got off to a nightmarish start which can be attributed to the unlikeliest of sources.
Special teams and defense have come up big for the Vikings on numerous occasions this season, but on Friday night, the special teams and defense dug Lowndes into a hole before the game could really get underway.
"We made too many mistakes to beat a team like that," said Lowndes Coach Randy McPherson. "They've got a fine team and you just can't turn the ball over like we did and stay in the ball game."
Camden County got the ball first to begin the game and the Vikings defense rose to the challenge, forcing the Wildcats to punt after just one first down, but Alex Brown couldn't hold onto the high kick and Camden was able to recover the ball on the 25 yard-line.
The Wildcats scored the first points of the game a few plays later courtesy of a Dalton Sikes 9-yard touchdown pass. Alex Brown stumbled trying to cover a fade route and was never able to elevate and defend the pass.
Poor tackling by the Viking defense led to another Wildcat touchdown on the next drive.
A Lowndes three-and-out gave the ball back to Camden at their own 35 yard-line, but it wouldn't take long for the Wildcats to get back into the redzone.
Ryan Johnson of Camden slipped through a few tackles in the backfield before finding an opening and making his move down-field. Eric Hart's tackle saved a touchdown after a 61-yard gain.
The Wildcats would score a few plays later on a short run by Chris Williams to put them up 14-0 with 3:36 remaining in the first quarter.
Fourteen seconds later, Camden would take a three touchdown lead over Lowndes thanks to another special teams gaffe by the Vikings.
A short, pop-up kick on the kickoff hung in the air before going through Brian Bell's arms. Camden jumped on the ball at the 32 yard-line and scored two plays later when Antonio Wimbush was able to get to the edge and out run the Vikings defense 32 yards for the score.
Just like that, Camden had a 21-0 lead on Lowndes before the Vikings second offensive drive of the evening.
On the ensuing kickoff, Lowndes narrowly evaded a complete special teams meltdown by recovering yet another muffed return, though a three-and-out prevented the Vikings from gaining any momentum.
Ironically, it would be a special teams play that would give the Vikings some life before halftime.
The Wildcats muffed a punt of their own, allowing the Vikings to recover on Camden's 21 yard-line -- one of the few times Lowndes' offense was given favorable field position to start a drive all game.
The offense would capitalize on the golden opportunity with a series of tough runs, including a 4th and two conversion, punctuated by Jerome Daniels' dive into the end zone.
Unfortunately, facing a 14 point deficit at halftime forced Lowndes out of their comfort zone and placed Camden firmly in theirs.
"It was important because it puts pressure on them," said Camden coach Welton Coffey. "We're both ball control offenses; we're not gonna get away from what we do no matter what the score is because that's what we believe in and there's nothing wrong with that because both programs have been extremely successful. We got out to a lead like that, to run the clock, put a little pressure on them, make them try to play catch up."
Lowndes is not a team with a quick-strike offense, but Camden crowded the box to stuff the run, forcing quarterback Austin Dixon to throw to beat the Wildcats.
The result: four interceptions, including one to each of Camden's Alabama recruits, Williams and Kalavaraz Bessent.
Meanwhile, with a 21-7 advantage the Wildcats were able to do what they do best, run the ball and play defense. By winning the field-position game Camden was able to keep Lowndes from ever seriously threatening in the second half.
The Wildcats finally put away the Vikings after a big punt pinned Lowndes inside their 10 yard-line on mid-way through 4th.
On a 4th and short, the Vikings decided to put the game in the hands of the defense, and punt instead of going for it inside their 30 yard line.
Most nights this would would have been a wise decision, but everything was working for Camden on the night and Lowndes' defense couldn't rise to one last challenge.
The Wildcats took 4 minutes off the clock and put the game out of reach when Johnson punched in a short TD to put the Wildcats up 28-7 with 2:50 remaining.
Camden officially sealed the deal soon after with their fourth Dixon interception with 1:48 to play.
The Vikings will be off next week, but there will be plenty of scoreboard watching in Lowndes County with a potential home playoff game at stake.