Cardinals take down defendin 5A South Champions at Lakeside 38-33

Photo By: Patric Flannigan
Camden Fairview running back Ja'Coriae Brown takes the handoff by quarterback Martavius Thomas
Photo By: Patric Flannigan Camden Fairview running back Ja'Coriae Brown takes the handoff by quarterback Martavius Thomas

An old phrase from a popular wrestling commentator can be used to describe last Friday night's game between the Camden Fairview Cardinals and the Hot Springs Lakeside Rams: Slobberknocker.

The Cardinals traveled to Garland County to upend the defending 5A South Champions on their home turf, 38-33.

It wasn't easy by a long shot as the Cardinals had to overcome several questionable calls and missed calls to secure a win. It wasn't like the Rams needed any help from the refs or self-inflicted damages to be a worthy opponent.

Lakeside received the ball to start the game and impressed early with its physicality behind sophomore stand-out running back Braylen Russell (6-1, 205). Russell picked up a couple of first downs, but the Cardinals defense would eventually make a stand at its own 15-yard line to stop the Rams on a fourth and three.

The Cardinals' offense moved the ball quickly down the field with a nice balanced attack. They found the end zone when quarterback Martavious Thomas hit wide receiver Brandon Copeland on a post route for what appeared to be a 60-yard touchdown. However, a late flag penalized the Cardinals for holding. Then on a third and short, the Cardinals were hit with a delay of game penalty, despite the Cardinal coaching staff calling for a timeout shortly before the play clock expired.

CF would end up punting the ball down to the Lakeside 8-yard line after an incomplete pass on third and long. CF came up with a big tackle behind the line to pin the Rams at their own five. The Rams, however, would catch a couple of Cardinal defenders who underestimated the trajectory of Rams QB Jordan Mills' pass that went over their heads and into the hand of Rams Receiver Chase Cross' for a 95-yard touchdown. The point-after kick was no good.

The Cardinal would take the lead on the first play of the second quarter when Ja'Coriae "Bug" Brown scored from two yards out, and Nasir Khan would add the PAT.

Lakeside would score on their next possession behind the powerful running of Russell again, this time from a yard out. The Rams added a two-point conversion to lead 14 to 7 with 8:50 left in the half.

The Cardinal offense would continue to be well-balanced, despite losing leading rusher Ja'Toney McGhee after getting his ankle rolled earlier in the quarter. The Cardinals would score when Thomas linked up with Copeland again for a 20-yard touchdown pass. The Cardinals faked the PAT and almost came up with a completion for two points, but the pass ultimately failed.

Then in the following play that most Cardinal fans found the most ridiculous occurred. On the ensuing kickoff, Khan strategically aimed high and towards the sideline. As the Ram's fielder muffed the kick, the official blew the whistle as it was recovered by the Cardinals. Due to the official's error, the Cardinals had to re-kick the ball, instead of it rightfully being rewarded to the visiting team.

Defensive end Jacovey Barker would come up with a major play when he sacked Mills on a third and short at the Lakeside 25-yard line with less than two minutes left in the second quarter. The Rams' punt wouldn't cross mid-field leaving the Cardinals with enough time to take the lead before the half. Brown would scamper for a 15- yard gain on the first play before Thomas hit wide receiver AJ Alsobrook on a quick screen and he sped down to the Rams 18 yard line. Brown would get another carry down to the Lakeside 11-yard line before Thomas found Alsobrook inside for a touchdown pass. The two-point conversion failed with 32 seconds left in the half.

Lakeside would threaten to respond after a pass interference was called against the Cardinals as time expired, and they were allowed an untimed down to take one more shot at the end zone, which fell incomplete.

The Cardinals would score on their first offensive possession in the second half thanks to a couple of big passes to Jarvis Reed - including a 34-yarder to put the Cardinals at the Rams' 2-yard line. Brown would power the ball in a play after, but the ensuing two-point conversion failed to leave the Cardinals ahead 25-14.

Lakeside would respond again when Russell scored from the one-yard line. CF would bust up the two-point conversion in the backfield, while a couple of Ram blockers were wrestling the helmet off of a Cardinals player in the end zone.

At that time, it became apparent the Cardinals would have to outscore the Rams to win a potential shootout.

The Cardinal offense was masterful on third down throughout the night and would strike again when Thomas perfectly placed a pass into Copeland's hands for a 31-yard touchdown. Khan added the PAT to put the Cardinals up 32-20, just before the fourth quarter.

Both offenses would play cat and mouse for the remainder of the ball game as the Lakeside would score on a four-yard rush and add a PAT with 10:27 left in the fourth quarter. The Cardinals would then score with a 9-yard run by Brown with 7:58 left. The two-point conversion would fail. Lakeside would quickly score with 6:30 left, but the Cardinal defense thwarted the two-point attempt.

The Cardinal would then put together the best drive an offense can put together without scoring any points; a drive that runs out the clock. With 4:40 left in the game, the Cardinals faced a fourth and two at midfield. Without hesitation, the Cards sent out their jumbo package, and Brown picked up 15-yards. CF would gain two more first down to help put the game away despite the Lakeside band's best efforts to make as much noise as it could in the Cardinal offenses' direction.

Thomas finished with an 18/24 completion-attempt ratio for 275 yards, not including the 55-yard pass that was called back in the first quarter. Thomas also ran 13 times for 128 yards. Brown carried the ball 21 times for a season-high 157 yards.

The Cardinals will now get ready to take on the Arkansas High Razorbacks for Homecoming on Friday, October 1st. Camden Fairview seeks its first varsity football win against the school since 2005.

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