The Camden Fairview Cardinals Football team ended in an underwhelming fashion with a loss to the White Hall Bulldogs 35-14 at Cardinals Stadium last Friday night.
For the student-athletes, and especially the seniors, it was a season of triumph and payoff. From the undefeated 7-on-7 summer camp run to the undefeated conference record - it was all well deserved and earned. The expectations for the program grew week in and week out, and rightfully so. However, the Cardinals ran into the program with a championship-caliber, playoff experience, and a confident game plan.
White Hall took advantage early of a possible oversight when the Cardinals kicked the ball to Braylon Johnson to start the game after he had just returned an opening kickoff for a touchdown last week. Johnson raced down to the Cardinal 34-yard line to set up the Bulldogs offense. After the Cardinals limited the Bulldogs to minimal gains on first and second down, the Bulldogs popped a big 26-yard pass down to the Cardinals' two-yard line and scored on the run a play later.
The Cardinals offense would respond as the running game that was present earlier this season made an appearance. CF went on a 13-play, 77-yard drive to answer the Bulldogs. Of those 13 plays, ten were runs, including a big 19 yard run by senior Jacoriae Brown. The drive was capped when junior quarterback Martavius Thomas hit senior Brandon Copeland in the end zone after reversing the field for a 13-yard touchdown.
A booming kickoff from junior Nasir Khan went into the end zone for a touchback. White Hall would hit a couple of big passes to start the drive before going to the ground game to chew up the remaining 4 minutes of the quarter. The Bulldogs opened the second quarter at the CF four-yard line. They were fortunate the officials ruled a ball carrier down when it appeared the Cardinals had ripped the ball away from him. WH would score on the next play when they snuck a tightened into the end zone for a pass. The PAT was no good.
It became apparent that White Hall wanted to control the clock as much as possible, so points on the Cardinals' offenses ensuing possession were paramount. The home team would pick up a big first down on a third and six when Thomas found Copeland for a 17-yard pickup. But tragedy would strike on the next play when a pass went over a Cardinal receiver and into the hands of the White Hall zone defense at their 31-yard line. WH then matriculated the ball downfield with an 11-play drive, only going to the air on three occasions and with success each time. The White Hall quarterback put the Bulldogs up three scores with an eight-yard run, then added the two-point conversion to make it 21-7 in favor of the visiting team.
The Cardinals started their next possession at their 35-yard line and had to punt after an incomplete pass on a third and ten. The Bulldogs would make what seemed like their only mistake of the night and rough the kicker giving the Cardinals new life at mid-field. CF picked up 6 yards on a first down carry by junior AJ Alsobrook, but the Bulldog came up with a one-yard sack on second down. Thomas dropped back for a pass on third down before taking off and being marked just short of the first down marker. CF elected to pass on fourth and one, and it fell incomplete with 1:08 left in the half.
The Cardinals defense tried its hardest not to give up the big play, but the Bulldogs would go 4/7 for 62 yards on the drive and distance themselves with a 14-yard touchdown pass to go ahead 28-7 to take that lead into the half.
Optimism was still present among the home fans, but so was confusion. WH wasn't better than the Cardinals talent-wise, but they capitalized on every Cardinal mistake, played within their scheme, and never got off schedule. Yes, the Cardinal offense had a turnover, but it had shown the ability to run the ball, and the receivers had shown the ability to get separation. The offensive line had also done a solid job of protecting as the Bulldogs scaled back on blitzing. The hope was contingent on if the Cardinal defense could get a couple of stops in the third quarter, and the offense could get in sync.
CF picked up a first down on their first drive before having to punt after a couple of incomplete passes. Mark Welch, who missed the first half, was re-entered into the game and made an immediate impact as the defense stuffed the Bulldogs and forced its first three and out.
Unfortunately, the Cardinal offense would do the same after a four-yard loss on first down got them behind the sticks.
The Cardinal defense would stand tough again and force another three-and-out allowing the Cardinal offense another critical possession. CF took over at its eight-yard line and benefited from a pass interference call on first down. From there, CF would start to march down the field. CF would face a second and eight at the Bulldogs 20 yard line, but three consecutive incomplete passes led to a turnover on downs. On the fourth-down pass, Thomas appeared to have a receiver over the middle, but an official was in the way of the pass, and it fell incomplete.
A tired, Cardinal defense took the field, and White Hall chewed up the remaining 1:16 of the third quarter. White Hall kept it on the ground in the fourth quarter, and Durrain Cain would score on a 33-yard touchdown run with 9:34 left in the ball game.
The Cardinal offense would eventually score again when Thomas found senior JaToney McGhee for a 54-yard touchdown, but the damage had already been done.
White Hall will go on to host Little Rock Christian on Friday. CF finishes the season at 10-2 - thankful for what they have accomplished but perhaps wondering what else they could have. No shame in the student-athletes performance this year as they have a lot to be proud of :
Outright 5A South Conference Champions for the first time since 2012
First playoff win since 2014
New single-season sack record - Jacovey Barker (19)
New single-game passing record - Thomas (520 yards), the
first shutout win over Arkansas High