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Wildcats rebound but Camden wins; Valdosta is next

Richmond Hill rebounded from its worst ever offensive performance in Coach Matt LeZotte’s nine years but it wasn’t enough as the Wildcats dropped a 35-33 heart-breaker at Camden County last Friday in the Region 1-7A opener for both teams.

Coming off a game in which it had only 62 yards in a 21-0 loss to Coffee County the Wildcats were closing in on an upset win when the wheels came off.

With 10 minutes to play Richmond Hill held a 27-14 lead on a night in which it had little difficulty in moving the ball only to see Camden score 21 straight points for a 35-27 lead before holding off the Wildcats at the end.

Richmond Hill (4-4, 0-1) will be looking to right the ship at 7:30 p.m. Friday when Valdosta (5-2, 1-0) comes to Wildcats Stadium. Valdosta is coming off a 37-27 win over struggling Lowndes County (3-3, 0-1).

The Wildcats proved to be their own worst enemy as Camden took advantage of some crucial errors to get the victory.

After Camden drove 80 yards to close to within 2721 the Wildcats fumbled at their own 20-yard line. On the very next play Camden’s Jaden Dailey scored. After Richmond Hill turned it over on downs at mid-field Dailey ran 39 yards for a 35-27 lead with three minutes remaining.

Richmond Hill then scored on six-play drive with 47 seconds remaining with Nick Bliss going in from four yards out for his third touchdown of the game. However, a personal foul penalty forced a failed two-point conversion from the 18-yard line to tie the game.

The Wildcats weren’t done in making it interesting though. While Camden players were celebrating on the sideline Richmond Hill recovered an onside kick to get the ball at midfield but was unable to convert the opportunity into points.

Camden took advantage of a first quarter Richmond Hill fumble to go 33 yards for a 7-0 lead but Bliss scored early in the second quarter. The extra point was missed but Elijah Blige scored on a 30-yard run on the Wildcats’ next possession for a 13-7 halftime lead.

Bliss and Caleb Easterling had touchdowns in the third quarter but unfortunately the Wildcats could not maintain the momentum.

Bliss, who now has 17 touchdowns on the season, had 103 yards on 19 carries to lead a rushing attack which rolled up 336 yards on the ground and 392 overall as Kirk Scott completed three of five passes for 56 yards.

Troup had 93 yards on 15 attempts, Scott added 80, Easterling 42 and Blige 38.

Bliss caught two passes for 49 yards. Defensively Gabe Bauman had 12 tackles and Phoenix Emberton six.

Bliss leads the region in all-purpose yards with 931, Troupe is second in the region with 564 yards rushing. Colquitt’s Niko Fann leads in passing with 1,431 yards and teammate Ny Carr has 37 catches for 720 yards while Camden’s Dailey is the top rusher with 603. Bliss leads the region in scoring with 102 points.

This will be Valdosta’s second trip ever to Wildcats Stadium. In 2019 Richmond Hill posted a shocking 16-14 upset win in the second round of the Class 6A state playoffs. Valdosta won last year’s region game, 20-0. It was a 0-0 game at the half.

Valdosta represents a challenge for the Wildcats defense as it is averaging 280.7 yards per game rushing and 138.9 passing. Freshman Deron Foster is one of four backs with 334 or more yards as he leads the team with 414 and six touchdowns.

Sophomore Prince Jean is one of the more versatile players in the region as he has completed 21 of 32 passes for 232 yards, ran for 346 and caught 22 passes for 332 yards and three touchdowns.

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