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Camden overcomes penalties to top Pemberton

After the game, an elated Camden football team approached coach Dwayne Savage with an open jug of water.

After the game, an elated Camden football team approached coach Dwayne Savage with an open jug of water.

Savage saw it out of the corner of his eye. And he refused it.

"Not yet," he said after his Camden football team topped host Pemberton, 34-13, in the South Jersey Group 3 semifinals Saturday, setting up a championship showdown with Delsea in two weeks at Rowan.

The theme of Savage's postgame speech to his players was "dream big." He didn't want them to think they were done yet.

But that wasn't the only reason Savage wasn't exactly in a celebratory mood.

"Penalties," he said, a theme repeated throughout his postgame comments.

Saturday afternoon, Camden balanced big plays with big penalties.

The team was flagged for almost 200 yards.

On defense, penalties led directly to two touchdowns, and the Panthers even had an interception reversed. Offensively, they had a touchdown called back.

The only thing that stood out more was than the number of flags was the team's big-play ability.

Camden (8-2) forced four turnovers, including three - interceptions by Dustin Singleton and Terrance Moore and a fumble recovery - in the second half.

On their first play from scrimmage in the first quarter, the Panthers completed a 48-yard flea flicker from wide receiver Brad Hawkins to fellow receiver Gian Perez to the 1-yard line. Demian Thomas scored the first of his three touchdowns on the next play.

"We have a lot of playmaker and we played great defense," Thomas said. "But penalties killed us. . . ..

"But it feels great. It's a humbling experience just to make it to this point."

Thomas' biggest play came during a wild drive to cap the first half.

After consecutive false start penalties, quarterback Drew Harris (13 of 22 passing for 188 yards) hit Thomas (116 all-purpose yards) down the sideline for a 43-yard completion. Two plays later, Harris found Ron Johnson in the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown just before the half ran out.

The play gave Camden a 28-13 cushion at the break. It set the stage for a dominant second half by the Camden defense, which was particularly strong up front, where it was bigger and more athletic than Pemberton.

The unit held Pemberton (8-2) in check until Thomas iced the game with the only score of the second half, a 21-yard run with 1 minute, 16 seconds left.

"They were the only team all year that was able to keep five defenders in the box and stop our run," Pemberton coach John Rosnick said. "When they can have six guys defending our receivers, that makes it hard on us."

Camden    7 21 0 6 - 34

Pemberton   7 6 0 0 - 13

C: Demian Thomas 1 run (Deron Wharton kick)

P: Tyrae Johnson 36 pass from Joseph Benson (Alibey Ozdemir kick)

C: Terrance Moore 1 run (Wharton kick)

C: Thomas 9 pass from Drew Harris (Wharton kick)

P: Antoine Wilson 16 pass from Benson (kick blocked)

C: Ron Johnson 14 pass from Harris (Wharton kick)

C: Thomas 21 run (pass failed)