OAKLEAF - Oakleaf High football may have picked the wrong year to renew its series with Camden County, a perennial Georgia power that boasted three defensive front players with three college commit, …
OAKLEAF - Oakleaf High football may have picked the wrong year to renew its series with Camden County, a perennial Georgia power that boasted three defensive front players with three college commit, while Oakleaf is breaking in four new starters on their offensive line.
Despite a tough 6-3 lead after the first two quarters after a Larry Smith interception and a scoring pass to running back Mike Mitchell, the Knights' could not hold off the Camden defensive front that shut down the Knights to win 25-12 with a 22-6 scoring advantage for the second half.
“They have got some special talent, some NFL size on that line,” marveled Oakleaf head coach Frank Garis. “Almost 700 pounds on the left side.”
Garis' lament was pointed toward Camden County seniors Micah Morris, a University of Georgia commit, and Deterias Glover, an Arkansas State commit. The third prong of the Wildcats front assault was defensive end Tucker Hudson, a signee to Tennessee Tech.
Camden County coach Bob Sphire, now 4-1, knew all about Oakleaf quarterback Walter Simmons who finished with 224 yards and two touchdown passes.
“Simmons is really dynamic, but the way we disrupted him was the key to the game,” said Bob Sphire, whose Wildcats were AAAAAAA semifinalists last year losing to eventual champion Marietta High School.
The elusive Simmons typically runs well on read options and escapes pressure in the pocket. On Friday, the Wildcats sacked him seven times. Aside from a 40 yard run, the senior gained only four yards on 12 carries.
Knights running back Adrian Grey averaged only three yards per carry on his 16 rushes. Simmons completed 13 of 26 passes, but also threw two interceptions.
“They did a great job of disguising what they were going to do,” Garis said of the Wildcats defense. “And once we thought there was a pattern to what they were doing, they changed it up.”
Camden County did its damage largely without the services of Morris who played only a few snaps in the second half due after suffering a knee injury in the first half. Hudson had four of Camden County’s seven sacks, while tackle Daryl Williams had two and a half.
Glover made one of two game-changing plays for the Wildcats. With Oakleaf holding a 6-3 and the ball to start the second half, the senior batted a Simmons pass into the air at the line of scrimmage, corralled the deflection and rumbled 20 yards into the end zone to give the visitors their first lead.
“That was a little bit of a gut punch,” Garis said of the pick-six.
Oakleaf had the better of it in the first half, outgaining the Wildcats 127-117. On Camden County’s second possession, senior safety Larry Smith intercepted a deep pass down the middle at the Knights’ 35 yard line. Facing a third and ten on the ensuing series, Simmons converted with a pass to Marquez Jones on a crossing route for 41 yards. Two plays later, Simmons found running back Mike Mitchell in the right flat, and the sophomore used a seal block by receiver Terrance Anthony to scamper 18 yards to the goal line. Simmons’ attempted pass for a two-point conversion was off the mark, leaving Oakleaf with a 6-0 lead.
The Wildcats defensive line set up their only points of the first half. Midway through the second quarter, Hudson sacked Simmons back at the Oakleaf one yard line to force a punt. Drew Ammon’s hurried boot traveled only 22 yards, and the Wildcats converted the great field position into a 26 yard field goal by Adonis Coyle.
Camden County capitalized on the momentum provided by Glover’s pick-six. On their next possession, quarterback Josh Brown went for broke on fourth and six from the Oakleaf 34 yard line. The sophomore led Deonte Cole perfectly on a fly pattern, and Cole hauled it in in the end zone as his defender fell down. Coyle’s point after touchdown stretched the Wildcats’ advantage to 17-6 with five minutes left in the third quarter.
The Knights had their sights set on a fourth quarter comeback when Anthony, who led all receivers with 139 yards on eight catches, got behind his man at the Camden County 45 yard line and sprinted to the goal line with a strike from Simmons.
“They [Camden County] were double-teaming Anthony all night,” said Garis. “For him to end up with a stat line like that is a testament to the kind of player he is.”
Grey’s two-point conversion attempt was stuffed at the line of scrimmage, leaving the Knights down 17-12.
The Oakleaf momentum was short-lived. An onside kick attempt by Ammon failed to travel the requisite 10 yards, leading to the second game-changing play. Brown threw a quick screen to receiver Shawn Hardy at the 47 yard line. The Nebraska commit cut inside, then cut back outside, broke a tackle and outran the pursuit to the goal line to restore a two-score lead. Hardy then snared a two-point conversion pass from Brown.
Oakleaf took over at their own 20 with 6:43 remaining and reached the Wildcats’ 14 yard line when Simmons escaped the pocket and scrambled for 40 yards on a fourth and 11. However, consecutive sacks by Hudson and Williams pushed the Knights back, and on fourth and 20 from the 23, Simmons could only pick up nine yards on another scramble. Camden County chewed up the remaining three minutes with running backs Ethan Petiote and Jaden Daily, who paced the Wildcats’ ground game with 86 yards on 21 rushes.
Oakleaf, which will visit Camden County in 2021, resumes Florida high school play this week by welcoming Fleming Island to the Dungeon on Friday, October 9. The Golden Eagles enter the game at 4-0. Garis likes to play tough games early in the season, saying that doing so sets them up for success at the end of the season and in the playoffs.
“Next week we play another team with talent similar to or better than ours,” said Garis. “So we have got to get our feelings right and be ready.”