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October 11, 2013

First half mistakes costly for Blue Devils

Camden County wins, 27-14

TIFTON — The Tift County Blue Devils pulled out all the stops against the Camden County Wildcats Friday at Brodie Field, but before a homecoming crowd, could only account for two touchdowns in a 27-14 loss.

A trio of turnovers spelled doom in the first half for Tift. Three times, they had the ball inside the 15, but an interception for a touchdown and two fumbles saw them come up with a zero.

The pick — only quarterback Ryan Wedgeworth's fourth for the season — gave Camden the lead before their offense even touched the ball. Its returner, Chris Williams, went from one pylon to another on the play. He caught it two yards deep in the endzone.

One lost fumble came on a pitch attempt from Wedgeworth to Ladarius Stewart that cut short their second drive. An attempt at a double reverse also went awry in the second quarter, but the Blue Devils recovered that one, albeit for a huge loss.

But they did have several big gains when they dug into their bag of tricks. Chase Cottle hit Malik Pittman for 52 yards on a fake punt. In the third, their first touchdown came on a halfback option from Stewart to Tarik White.

Even with the turnovers, the Devils outgained their opponents on offense by more than 100 yards. They had 407 total yards to the 'Cats 294 and the defense surrendered just two of Camden's four touchdowns.

After receiving the ball on the opening kickoff, Tift County advanced down to the 13 in 10 plays. Wedgeworth lofted a pass into the front left corner, but it was picked off by Williams. Williams, following his blockers down the sideline, finally ran out of blue jerseys to avoid and completed the 102-yard return. Bradley Bastable's kick made it 7-0 at 6:59.

Undeterred, Tift County went on the move again. They appeared to be stopped at their own 30, but on fourth down, pulled the first trick play.

Mason Gann went out to punt, but the snap went to Cottle, who found Pittman wide open in the middle of the field. A single Wildcat kept him from scoring, tackling him at the 27.

Three plays later, they had first down at the 10, but when Wedgeworth went to pitch it to Stewart, the timing was off and Camden landed on the loose ball at the 18. A slow drive, highlighted by a 23-yard run by Ryan Johnson, was finished off by Demitri Saulsberry's 18 yarder that made the score 14-0.

Williams stopped another scoring attempt moments later. On their own 25, Jacori McCoy caught a pass that seemed to be a sure touchdown, but Williams chased him down and knocked the ball loose at the three and into the endzone. The pigskin eluded both teams on first attempt, but the Wildcats finally corralled it, resulting in a touchback.

Perhaps the deciding touchdown of the game came on the kickoff to start the third. Antonio Wimbush caught it at the nine and took it back 91 yards, expanding the lead to 21-0.

The Devils' offense finally made it count later in the period. Stewart returned a Bastable punt to midfield. McCoy advanced it 11 yards on a pass for a first down. Stewart was knocked back two, but on the next snap, took a lateral in the backfield and fired it to White for the 41-yard touchdown. Frankie Mejia's kick was good and at 3:51, the lead was back down to 14.

Camden kept it on the ground on their next possession and another slow drive developed. It took the remaining four minutes of the period and spilled over into the fourth. In that time, they had taken it 50 yards, down to the 22. On the first play of the new quarter, Wimbush ran the remainder. Bastable's kick missed, leaving it 27-7.

Following an exchange of punts, the Devils went on the march for the final time.

They would withstand a sack and recover two of their own fumbles, but the combination of Wedgeworth, Brian Bennett, Bralin Denson and Stewart took them to Camden's one. After a procedure call put them on the six, Wedgeworth made it in at 1:08.

Stewart led Tift with 81 yards rushing on 18 carries. McCoy's three receptions were his first of the season. He had 121 yards. Wedgeworth had 166 on 7-15 passing and ran for 31 more.

Camden and their quarterback Dalton Sikes only attempted three passes. Two were complete and for 54 yards.Wimbush’s 80 led them in rushing.

The Blue Devils, now 4-3, will be at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium next Friday to take on the Valdosta Wildcats. Valdosta fell in the Winnersville Classic to Lowndes Friday, 3-0.

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