By Gordon Jackson
The Brunswick News
KINGSLAND — Camden County opened its football season Friday with a 27-20 win over West Forsyth in a lightning delayed game at Chris Gilman Stadium.
The Wildcats won the toss and chose to receive the ball to open the game. Camden coach Bob Sphire said his team had a good week of practice and he wanted his team to set the tone for the game.
Camden took the opening drive down the field in eight plays, capped with a 40-yard touchdown pass by Logan Watson to Shawn Hardy to put the Wildcats on the scoreboard. A missed extra point gave Camden a 6-0 lead.
The Wolverines’ first drive didn’t go as well. A bad snap on the first possession led to a Camden recovery on the two-yard line. Daryl Williams ran the ball in for Camden on the next play to increase the lead to 13-0 midway though the first quarter.
West responded on the next possession, driving the ball 68 yards in 10 plays for a score. Camden blocked the extra point attempt to make the game 13-6.
Camden was forced to punt on its next possession, giving the ball to the Wolverines on their 33-yard line to start the drive. Twelve plays later, quarterback Blake Whitfield scored on a 16-yard run to knot the score a 13-13.
Sphire said one of the weaknesses of last year’s team was its inability to make big plays during the final six minutes of the first half and in the fourth quarter. Camden got the ball with 7:25 left in the first half and took less than two minutes to move the ball down the field thanks to a long 60-yard kickoff return by Caleb Keaton to give the Wildcats good field position. Seven plays later, Camden took the lead again 20-13 on a nine-yard touchdown pass to Zachia Glover.
Both teams failed to score until the Wolverines scored on an 85-yard touchdown pass from Whitfield to Abraham Camara to tie the score 20-20 with a little more than eight minutes remaining.
Camden responded the next play with a big kickoff return to the West 20-yard line. Three plays later, Watson tossed a 17-yard touchdown pass to Detravious Campbell to give Camden a 27-20 lead and the victory.
The Camden win was special because the team has hosted the Frank Smith Classic the past five years. The game is named in honor of Frank Smith, an enthusiastic supporter of the Wildcats more than four decades until his death in 2012.
Until the classic was created in 2014, Camden High traditionally played in the Corky Kell Classic in Atlanta. Camden decided to host its own event, playing some of the top teams from Alabama, Florida and the Atlanta area the past five years.
Sphire said he made adjustments throughout the game to counter what West tried to do.
“I thought we were mentally prepared for the game,” he said. “The game played out the way I thought it would. It’s a game we would have lost last year."
Sphire credited Friday’s win with the tone set by the team after ending last season with a close loss to Tift County.
“I told them we deserved that victory; we earned that victory. Those were some heavyweight punches thrown all night long,” Sphire said he told his players after the game.