By MARK TRIBLE
South Jersey Glory Days Football Writer
HADDONFIELD — The biggest play of the night, the call that showed some serious fortitude and belief, came from a senior who’d earned his coach’s trust.
On his own 12-yard line with the clock around three minutes, Camden High’s Taquan Brittingham told Rob Hinson the 4th-and-1 about to take place would be the time for a fake punt.
Then in a timeout, he told him again.
Hinson obliged. The Panthers snapped it to Brittingham, positioned as the upback.
Seventy yards later, No. 2 on Camden had clinched the Cherry Hill Dodge Game of the Week for his club that holds that same number in the South Jersey Football Frenzy Show/Glory Days Best 11 Rankings.
Brittingham and his Panthers will remain there next week after the tight, defensive slugfest ended on that gusty call. Camden knocked Haddonfield from the ranks of the unbeaten, 7-3.
“I told coach, ‘I got you, I’m not going to let you down,’” Brittingham said. “Coach was a little iffy about it at first, but I told him not to worry about it, just put your faith in me.”
This decision made sense. Not only was the defensive alignment cushioned for it — Hinson checked on the initial call, used a timeout and looked again to be sure — but, it also seemed perfect due to what had happened the previous possession.
The Panthers (5-1, 4-0 West Jersey Football League Constitution) had a low punt snap that allowed the eighth-ranked Haddons’ drive to begin at the 18-yard line. Camden held on that set of downs, even after Brittingham’s interception got called back due to a hold in the end zone.
With six snaps inside their 13, the Panthers refused to give it up.
“Just get it done,” senior lineman Caleb Beyah-Bryant said of the defensive mindset. “Get it done, go get it and finish it.
“No trying. No thinking about it. You’ve just got to do it.”
Beyah-Byrant had a sack and a tackle for loss in the game. Jahmye Tyson had a key pass deflection on a fourth down stop. D’Hani Cobbs and Israel Clark-White snatched interceptions as well.
For all the weapons and offensive prowess Camden possesses, its defense gave the statement at Haddonfield (4-1, 2-1 WJFL Constitution).
“All of us, we swarm and finish and we’ve got a lot of chemistry together,” Clark-White said. “We just play it play-by-play and go hard every time.
“It’s not about the credit. We just fight hard every drive. We don’t look for that extra clout, we just play ball.”
Clark-White’s pick late in the second quarter set up the lone touchdown of the night, a 19-yard pass from Deante Ruffin to Hamin Anderson. Blaise Coley for the Haddons nailed a 32-yard kick with 12 seconds left in the frame to answer.
That’s all the points the packed stands would see here on Friday.
Haddonfield, down do-it-all Charlie Klaus to injury, couldn’t quite get that big play it needed to launch the upset blow. Instead, opportunities fell just short as the visitors stood tall.
“We just had to go base, really, really basic and be more passive than we like to be,” Hinson said. “To kind of make sure we weren’t getting out-formationed. They did a couple of times and I had to call a timeout or two.
“I just told the guys, ‘let’s just stay really basic and then make the play when we have to.’”
Then Hinson, who admitted he felt lucky to escape with a win against a tough foe in a tight clash, pivoted.
“I want to make sure I don’t get credit for that call,” the coach said. “Taquan was like, ‘Coach, I swear if you call it, we can get it.’”
The defense made it possible.
Brittingham finished it.
“The hole was there,” he said. “They were so busy worrying about blocking the point, they weren’t really worried about the fake.
“[Not scoring] was my bad. I kept looking around, I’ve got to keep running for the touchdown.”
Anyone in purple and gold could easily forgive him.
Mark Trible is a special high school football writer for South Jersey Glory Days. You can follow him on Twitter @MTrible. Also, catch his high school football show (The South Jersey Football Frenzy Show) every Wednesday at 7 p.m. at facebook.com/sjglorydays, and his “Hat’s Off” Podcast every Sunday at 9 a.m.