The Valdosta Daily Times
Camden County’s transition into Region 1 from a much-weaker Region 3 was capped off Friday night with a 24-7 win over the Lowndes Vikings in the Region 1-6A championship game at Martin Stadium in Valdosta.
“I am not going to lie, it feels good because a lot of people doubted us,” Camden County head coach Jeff Herron said. “What a game, I tip my hat off to Lowndes. They probably outplayed and outcoached us, but we will take it. I think there is a chance we might run into them down the road.”
With the way the state playoff brackets are positioned, the Vikings (9-1), who will serve as the No. 2 seed out of Region 1-6A, and the Wildcats (9-0) cannot meet until the state championship game on Dec. 17. The playoffs begin Nov. 16.
“We have a week off and we got the next season coming up,” Lowndes head coach Randy McPherson said. “We have the next season coming up, so we are going to get to work on Monday. We will grow from this game; we will learn a lot.”
Friday’s game was a classic South Georgia slugfest as the two teams went blow-for-blow for much of the game. Both defensive units shined while offensive production was hard to find.
Lowndes limited the high-powered Wildcat offense, which entered the game averaging over 46 points per game, to just 216 yards, while the Vikings were held to a season-low 121 yards, including just 33 in the second half.
“Every time we’ve played them it has been a defensive battle,” said Herron, who has now led the Wildcats to 91 straight region win. “We didn’t expect anything less tonight.”
In the end, Camden County was able to take advantage of premium field position to score on the stingy Viking defense. All of the Wildcats’ scoring drives started no deeper than their own 35-yard line, including two that started inside Lowndes territory.
After Lowndes opened the game with an impressive 7-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that was capped off by a 9-yard run by sophomore Ahman Brown, the Vikings were held to just 41 total yards of offense across their final nine possessions of the game, punting the ball away six times and throwing an interception on another drive.
Lowndes quarterback Alex Stephenson was chased around the field for much of the night and was only able to complete just 1 of 5 passes for 3 yards.
“They made the plays and we didn’t,” McPherson said.
Following Lowndes’ touchdown to begin the game, Camden went three-and-out, but was able to force Lowndes to a punt on its ensuing possession. The punt went off the side of the foot of Viking punter John Belcher and traveled just 13 yards.
With premium field position at the Viking 45, Camden County used a 7-play drive, capped off by a 1-yard rushing touchdown by University of Georgia commitment JJ Green to even the score at 7-7.
The two teams swapped punts on their next two possessions before Stephenson was intercepted, setting up a 45-yard field goal by Camden County’s Grant Gabriel, his first career attempt, that made the score 10-7 with less than a minute remaining in the first half.
Camden County continued to build momentum into the second half as Green returned the opening kickoff to the Lowndes 27-yard line. Once again, it took Camden County just seven plays, including a fourth down pass conversion from quarterback Brice Ramsey, to get into the end zone on a 1-yard rushing touchdown by Antonio Wimbush, which made the score 17-7.
The two offensive units then went back and forth swapping punts, before Lowndes’ Jordan Williams, the third string returner, muffed a punt — the Vikings’ top two returners, Tiquan Lang and Nick Burgman both sat out with injuries — setting the Wildcats up at the Lowndes 41.
Camden County needed just two plays to strike for a touchdown, as Ramsey rolled right and threw to a wide-open James Laverette for a 57-yard touchdown, which essentially iced the game for the Wildcats.
“JJ had the big kickoff return to start the second half and that certainly got us some momentum and that helped,” said Herron of the Wildcats’ second half success. “We got a quick score and were able to make some halftime adjustments.”
Lowndes’ Ahman Brown finished with a game-high 49 yards rushing on 11 carries; Tevin Brown finished with 33 yards on five carries, while Stephenson added 27 yards on the ground.
Camden County’s JJ Green was limited to just 18 yards rushing on 10 carries, including his first quarter score. Ramsey, who is also committed to Georgia, completed 6 of 10 passes for 132 yards with his late fourth quarter touchdown.