The Salem Tiger that made the biggest impact on the Dexter Bearcats Friday night was the smallest player on the field.
Dexter had no answer for Tiger junior running back Caden Camden – all 5-5, 135-pounds of him.
The shifty Camden was a fly in the Bearcat ointment all night long, compiling nearly 200 yards of total offense in helping pace Salem to a 19-6 non-conference victory Friday in the Tiger home opener.
The hard-fought victory put Salem at 2-0 heading into SCA play. Dexter falls to 0-2.
The Tigers open conference action this week when they travel to Houston Friday (7 p.m. kickoff).
Against Dexter, Salem was able to score in just one period. But the second quarter was all it took, as the Tigers erupted for all three of their touchdowns and were in control the rest of the way.
Leading the charge was Camden, who had one rushing and one receiving TD. He finished with 140 rushing yards on 16 carries and caught two passes for 44 yards.
“Camden was just making plays,” said Salem head coach Dylan Wyrick. “Whenever nothing was there he was making something, picking up first downs or taking it to the house.”
After a scoreless first quarter Salem struck three times the rest of the half.
The first TD came when Camden took off one way, found no running room and cut all the way back to an open field the opposite direction, sprinting in for a 34-yard scoring run. Junior Brandon White added the PAT.
A couple minutes later the Tigers got the ball back and it was sophomore quarterback Garrett Connell who ended another scoring drive when he sprinted out of the pocket and fired a play-action pass to Camden, hitting him in stride at the goal line for a 31-yard touchdown strike. The extra point kick failed.
In the final seconds of the first half Salem got on the scoreboard for the final time. With trips to the right, Connell fired it for sophomore wideout Luke Campbell, who hauled the ball in while crossing the endzone for a 20-yard scoring reception. The Tigers went for the two-point conversion but fell short.
It was 19-0 at intermission.
Salem would not mount a successful scoring drive in the second half. Dexter got the final TD in the fourth quarter on a 33-yard TD pass. The conversion failed, leaving the final score.
Junior linebacker Dylan Thompson had a defensive highlight for the Tigers when the stripped the ball out of a running back’s hands for a fumble recovery. Connell also made an interception. Connell and Camden each had nine tackles to pace the Tiger defense.
“We went to the air on them and I think that (surprised) them a little,” Wyrick said. “We really didn’t take shots down the field the previous week (against St. James). In the second half we totaled about as many yards as we did in the first half, but mistakes kept us out of the endzone. A couple of penalties, mistakes, turnovers.
“Our defense played an outstanding game and kept them out of the endzone most of the way. The only score they had was when they hit a hit-and-go. We made some big plays on turnovers.”
Connell continues to mature in the QB role. Friday, he connected on eight-of-14 passes for 104 yards. Junior wideout Dawson Mock caught four passes for 31 yards.
“He’s adapting well,” Wyrick said of Connell. “He’s just a natural quarterback, is getting a grasp of the offense and is getting to know where he needs to go with the ball before it’s snapped.”
Salem 19, Dexter 6
First Downs: SHS 12, DHS 13
Yards Rushing: SHS 150, DHS 157
Yards Passing: SHS 104, DHS 84
Total Yards: SHS 254, DHS 241
Passing: SHS 8-14, DHS 9-27
Int. Thrown: SHS 1, DHS 1
Fumbles Lost: SHS 2, DHS 1
Penalties: SHS 4-56, DHS 2-23
Punting: SHS 4 for 33.0, DHS 2 for 34.0
The score by periods:
Salem 0 19 0 0-19
Dexter 0 0 0 6- 6
The scoring plays:
Salem: Camden 34-yard run, White kick.
Salem: Camden 31-yard pass from Connell, conversion fails.
Salem: Campbell 20-yard pass from Connell, conversion fails.
Dexter: 33-yard pass, kick fails.
Salem Individual Statistics
Passing: Connell 8-14-104-1.
Rushing: Camden 16 for 140, J. Barton 4 for 6, Connell 9 for 2, Smith 1 for 1.
Receiving: Camden 2 for 44, Mock 4 for 31, Campbell 2 for 29.
Tackles: Connell 6 (solo)-3 (assists), Camden 4-5, J. Barton 3-3, Jarvis 3-5, White 3-2, Smith 2-8, Thompson 2-11, Atchison 2-0, Mock 1-4, Coffman 1-1, Chase 1-0, Gover 1-0, Pyle 0-4, Dell 0-3, Newman 0-2, Chilton 0-1, Henderson 0-1.
Interceptions: Connell 1.
Sacks: Atchison 1.