Tift falls to Camden 31-21

Tifton -Tift County slugged it out with highly touted Camden County in the Devils’ Den Friday night holding its own for most of the night. Camden held a 302-301 advantage in total yards in what was perhaps the hardest hitting game played at the Brodie in some time. In the end, however, the Wildcats came up with a 31-21 victory on the strength of a couple of big plays and a few Blue Devil miscues.

Tyberius Poke runs after a short pass. Poke was effective as a receiver for Griffin Collier and the Blue Devils. Photo: Shine Rankin Jr. /SGSN

Tyberius Poke runs after a short pass. Poke was effective as a receiver for Griffin Collier and the Blue Devils.
Photo: Shine Rankin /SGSN“We’ve just got to execute better,” said an obviously disappointed Tift Head Coach Ashley Anders after the game. “I felt like we played hard all night and our kids are never going to give up. We thought we were going to win that game all the way up to the end; all the way up until we didn’t get that hop on the onside kick.”

Camden scored on its first possession of the night when Tift’s first punt traveled just ten yards giving the Cats the ball at midfield. The 9-play drive was capped by a 7-yard Brandon McMaster touchdown run. That was all the offense Camden could muster against a stout Tift defense in the first half. The Devils held a 158-78 advantage in total yards after two quarters with 50 of Camden’s yards coming on the first drive.

As the first half came to a close, the Devils mounted an impressive scoring drive. Tift went 80 yards in 12 plays. The lion’s share of the yards came on two completions from Griffin Collier to R.J. Merriweather. The first connection netted 22 yards and the second went for 26 yards and a touchdown. Merriweather outran the whole Camden secondary reeling in the ball in the back of the end zone just getting two feet down for the score.

While the Merriweather touchdown tied the game at 7-7 with 34 seconds to play until halftime, the Devils could not hold on to the momentum. Instead, an 84-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Camden’s Harrison Poole turned the game on its head. Instead of storming into the halftime locker room tied at 7-7, Tift staggered into intermission down 14-7. Camden kept the momentum by driving 46 yards on 11 plays for a 40-yard field goal by Oliver Kellum on the first drive of the second half. Those ten points would be the difference.

Pink Out: It was Breast Cancer Awareness night at the Brodie on Friday Night, and cancer survivor Chloe Kendrick got a treat as well, cheering with the Varsity cheerleaders during the contest.

Pink Out: It was Breast Cancer Awareness night at the Brodie on Friday Night, and cancer survivor Chloe Kendrick got a treat as well, cheering with the Varsity cheerleaders during the contest. Photo: Shine Rankin Jr./SGSN

The Devils got back into the game when J.T. Graden tackled the punter on the Wildcat 17 yard line. A low snap was picked up and bobbled by the punter as Graden was driving a Wildcat blocker straight back into the punter. Graden then reached around the blocker and snatched the punter down by his jersey. Two plays later, Barry Bennett scored from nine yards out and Tift was back within three, 17-14.

The biggest play of the game followed Tift’s biggest punt of the season. Punter Drew Harrison nailed a 59-yard punt over the returner’s head and buried the Cats at their own 19. But, on a third and 10 under intense pressure, Camden QB Antonio Hamilton heaved a pass in the direction of McMaster. McMaster was covered like a blanket but managed to haul in the ball over a Tift defender’s helmet while running backwards for a miraculous 22-yard gain. Moments later Camden fullback Mikey Packard popped through the Tift defense for a 51-yard touchdown on a third and two play. Packard had two carries for nine yards in the first three quarters but took over the game in the fourth finishing with 99 yards on 14 carries.

Trailing by ten with three minutes to play, Tift was forced to go for it on a fourth and 15 from its 20. The Wildcats stopped the Devils on downs and added a touchdown pass to giant tight end Mack Nash just seconds later. Camden ran for 216 yards and passed for 86. All 86 passing yards came in the second half.

With the score 31-14, Merriweather nearly single handedly drove the Devils for one more score. He started things with a 22-yard kickoff return, added a 22-yard reception moments later and scored on a 4-yard pass with 2:06 to play. Merriweather finished with seven catches for 101 yards and two TDs. Collier was 18-27 passing for 173 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He also ran for 44 yards on 14 carries. Bennett finished with 68 yards on 16 carries.

All six teams in Region 1-AAAAAA will take the week off next week. Tift returns to play on October 30th at Colquitt County. Camden will play at Lee on the 30th while Valdosta will cross town to play in the Winnersville Classic at Lowndes. Colquitt County routed Valdosta and Lowndes routed Lee County Friday night. Camden and Colquitt are both 3-0. Lee, Lowndes and Valdosta are all 1-2. Tift is 0-3.

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