Just when the Cahokia Comanches seemed to have Camden (N.J.) right where they wanted it, the Panthers always seemed to find pay dirt.
Camden scored all four of its touchdowns on third or fourth down and long situations Saturday, paving the way for a 26-8 victory over the Comanches in the opening game of the inaugural Gateway Scholars Football Classic at Clyde Jordan Field.
The first of those scores came on a 26-yard touchdown pass from Premire Wilson to Najyere Edwards on the game’s opening possession. It came on a third-and-16 and gave the Panthers a lead they would not surrender.
“That was embarrassing,” said second-year Comanches coach John Clay, whose team dropped to 0-2. “We didn’t play a very good game and I give credit to them. They made the plays.
“They put the ball up and caught it. They deserved those touchdowns.”
Wilson would toss two more TD passes before the first half was over.
His 22-yarder to Damon Rice on a fourth and 22 early in the second quarter made it 12-0.
He connected with Cory Palmer on a 33-yard scoring play, this one on a fourth and 15, to make it 18-2 just 6.4 seconds before halftime.
Camden’s final touchdown came after Cahokia had pulled to within 18-8 on a 16-yard pass from Malik Shaw to Elijah Rice with 4:33 left in the third quarter.
On this one, Edwards, filling in at quarterback for Wilson, broke free from pressure and scrambled 14 yards for a touchdown while facing a fourth and 11.
“That’s just the type of team we are,” said Camden coach Dwayne Savage, whose team was playing its season opener. “We’ve got a lot of playmakers and on any down they can take it for six.
“That’s why we stress to the kids not to give up on any play.”
Cahokia did seem to get a spark when Shaw, a junior, took over at quarterback for starter Richard Williams.
The Comanches’ first score had come when a snap went over the head of Wilson and he was tackled in the end zone, resulting in a second-quarter safety.
Shaw directed the Comanches on their only scoring drive of the game during the third quarter — a 12-play, 48-yard march capped by Rice’s touchdown reception on a slant across the middle — and on a couple of other occasions had his offense on the move only to see the drive stall out, often because of penalties.
Cahokia was flagged 13 times in the game for 101 yards.
For the game, Shaw completed 9 of 16 passes for 113 yards and the touchdown.
“It’s something good going forward,” said Clay of Shaw’s performance. “But we’ve got to get better defensively. We missed too many tackles and we’ve got to be able to run the football.
“We’re just not a very good football team right now.”
The Comanches rushed for just 14 yards in the game on 26 carries. Demarion Hinkle led the way with 11 carries for 26 yards. Cahokia ball carriers were tackled for loss 11 times.
Wilson finished the game 11 of 15 for 176 yards and three touchdowns with an interception. Damon Rice caught six for those passes for 94 yards. Edwards rushed for 77 yards on 14 carries.
Savage was glad his team made the long trip to East St. Louis.
“East St. Louis really has given us a lot of love,” Savage said. “It is a really beautiful thing to come out here and see another part of the country.”
Cahokia will be on the road again next week, as it crosses the river to play Gateway Tech in St. Louis.