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Sports editor

Last Friday night’s game at Cardinals Stadium was loss by the Camden Fairview Cardinals more than it was won by the Hot Springs Lakeside Rams. The Cardinals played hard and had ample opportunities but ultimately fell, 13-9 to the visiting team.

Third down conversions played a big role as the Rams’ play calling focused on getting in third and short situation to eat up the clock and sustain drives. Lakeside converted 60 percent of its third downs (9 out of its 15) and converted 1/2 of its fourth downs. The Cardinals on the other hand were 3/11. CF and Lakeside both had four turnover’s - four fumbles for Lakeside and two fumbles and two interceptions for CF. CF also had a blocked punt in the second half that was almost recovered for a touchdown that would’ve tied the game at 13 but the ball rolled out the side of the end zone for a safety.

The Cardinals offense struggled from the top after fumbling on its second play from scrimmage at the 50 yard line. Lakeside came right back and ran a double reverse pass for a 30 yard gain - the biggest offensive play for the Rams in the game - and then score four plays later on a six yard pass from Will Ross to Cross. Lakeside attempted a fake field goal but was denied and the Rams hold on to a 6-0 lead with 8:23 left in the first.

After the Cardinals next offensive drive led to a punt, the Cardinals defense would get the ball back for the offense when JaQuavious Strickland recovered a fumble at the CF 34 yard line. Both offenses would exchange punts before Lakeside would come up with an interception at its 35 yard line. That Lakeside possession would also end in a punt and neither team would score until Gunner Branch hooked up with Jaden Bates after he got separation for a 27 touchdown. Nasir Khan added the PAT and CF went ahead, 7-6 with 3:14 left in the half.

The Camden Fairview defense would come up big and recover another fumble at the Lakeside 47 just before the half.

Lakeside got the ball to start the third quarter and went on a 12 play, 71-yard drive that was capped by a 25 yard touchdown on a third and long with just over seven minutes left in the third. The Camden Fairview offense would sputter and lose Branch to an injury before having to punt. However, the next two minutes of game times would be a golden opportunity for the Cardinals. The CF special teams blocked a punt at that Lakeside 18. The Cardinals attempted to recover it but it ultimately rolled out of the end zone for a safety. Then on the ensuing kick, Lakeside attempted a short sky kick and hit a CF player before the ball traveled ten yards. After the penalty was assessed the Cardinals had the ball at Lakeside Rams’ 21 yard line. The Cardinals would lose yardage and end up in a third and long situation. Lakeside would come up with an interception at its own 8 yard line. The Cardinal defense would force a three and out to get the ball back in its offense’s hands.

Things started to look up for the Cardinals early in the fourth quarter. The Cardinal offense would have a good drive behind Logan Robertson. Robertson would connect with Reshard Clardy on an inside seam pass that the Cardinals had trouble converting throughout out the season. The play would go for 29 yards and put the Cardinals in good field position. Then facing a third and long from the Lakeside 30, Robertson would shoot a pass to Bates in the end zone who was being held by a Lakeside defender. The ball would hit Bates in the chest but he was unable to pull his arms up to reel it in. The official threw a flag indicating that there would be a pass interference call on the defense. A Lakeside Rams football player stormed towards the official getting in his face which led to the officials throwing another flag, seemingly for an unsportsmanlike conduct.

But, things aren’t always what they seem.

After the official congregated near the Lakeside Rams sideline, not one but both flags were waved off drawing the disapproval of the Cardinal fans. Robertson would against attempt a pass but it would fall incomplete.

Still the game was not over. The Cardinals defense would again come up with a fumble at the CF 44 yard line. The Cardinals would face a third down with 5:19 left in the ball game and come out in a diamond formation. After faking it to the first running back through the middle the quarterback went right and attempted to option the ball to his running back, but Lakeside blew up the play and met the Cardinals in the backfield leading to a fumble.

Lakeside would drive down to the CF 20 yard line and attempt a field goal with 1:40 left in regulation but the kick was short.

Sophomore quarterback and slot receiver Martavious Thomas was brought in for the final drive and was able to guide the Cardinals down to the Lakeside 10 yard line with 30 seconds left. The Cardinals - not having any timeouts left - took a sack on a second down back to the Lakeside 25 yard line. The team got back on the ball in time to spike it and set up one last play that ended up being and incomplete pass.

Unofficially the Cardinals out gained Lakeside on offense by 10 yards 261 to 251. Lakeside’s Ross was 18/34 for 161 yards and two touchdowns. Cross had the one pass for 30 yards. The CF quarterback trio combined to go 12/27 for 153 yards and a touchdown. Thomas finished 6/8 for 71 yards.

The Cardinals running defense was nearly impeccable despite Lakeside’s above average third down conversion rate. Lakeside’s Issac Echolls rushed 27 times for 41 yards and four fumbles. As a team, Lakeside rushed 34 times for 61 total yards. The Cardinal defense had 13 plays in which Lakeside was held to a yard or less. They recovered four fumbles. CF yielded a couple of first downs to Lakeside in critical moments because of an unsportsmanlike conduct in the fourth quarter and jumped on a third and short in the first quarter.

While the rushing game suffered without having interior all-state lineman Jahleel Welch for the game who was out nursing an injury, the Cardinals still averaged over 4 yards per carry tallying 109 yards on 27 carries. Erik Hall had 8 rushes for 50 yards followed by Branch who had five rushes for a net of 39 yards. Robertson had five carries for 20 yards.

Because of the pandemic, even the first game of conference play has big playoff implications. The Arkansas Activities Association is going by winning percentages and not the number of wins because teams may have to cancel games. What this means is that a team is not penalized when they do not play because of the pandemic so at the end of the season, a team that is 4-1 and missed a conference game because of the pandemic will get a higher seed over a team that is 4-2 and has played all of their conference games.

The loss drops CF 2-3, 0-1 in conference. Unless the schedule has to change due to pandemic complications, the Cardinals will have to wait until Oct. 16 (Homecoming) for an opportunity to pick up its first home win.

The Cardinals will travel to Texarkana on Friday night.

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