Defense lifts It was Camden Catholic vs. Timber Creek.

It was the No. 3 team in The Inquirer's South Jersey rankings vs. the No. 1 team.

It was one dominant defense vs. another dominant defense.

But Camden Catholic's Jarred Alwan looked even deeper than that.

"It was defensive ends vs. linebackers," Alwan said after Camden Catholic's 14-7 victory over Timber Creek in a heavy-hitting opener for both teams on Friday night.

Alwan is a linebacker. He's headed to Temple to play that position in the Big East. He's partial to those guys who operate behind the defensive line and in front of the secondary - especially the ones who roam from sideline to sideline.

"Linebackers are better than defensive ends," Alwan said.

There was no arguing with Alwan's logic after this West Jersey Football League Constitution Divsion clash. The Irish senior and his classmate and fellow linebacker, Will Jackson, made the big plays that made the difference in a ragged, rugged game controlled by both defenses.

Timber Creek's defense, led by North Carolina-bound end Dajaun Drennon and Rutgers-bound end Myles Nash, shut down Camden Catholic. The Irish had one play, an 11-yard reception by Tom Wescott, that covered more than 10 yards.

But on this warm night before a large crowd at Timber Creek's field, it wasn't enough for a defense merely to shut down the opposing offense.

Timber Creek's defense was great. Even without star tackle Greg Webb, who is recovering from knee surgery, the Chargers held the Irish to fewer than 100 yards of offense, forcing punt after punt.

But Camden Catholic's defense was even better.

That's because the Irish did more than just contain Timber Creek's offense. The Irish made big plays on defense, getting five interceptions - two of which led directly to both touchdowns.

"We knew we had to make big plays," Jackson said. "Neither team was able to do anything on offense. We knew we had to do something on defense."

Camden Catholic got some great work from its young defensive backs, as sophomore Carl Garnes came up with two interceptions and freshman Benny Walls was all over the field - picking off a pass, making a couple of big hits, and generally acting like a polished veteran.

"He was something," Alwan said of Walls.

Camden Catholic's defensive front was sturdy, too, as Timber Creek was unable to generate much in the way of a ground game.

But it was Camden Catholic's linebackers who changed the game.

They made the big plays on a night when the Irish couldn't sustain anything on offense.

Alwan stepped in front of a swing pass in the second quarter and rumbled 57 yards to the Timber Creek 8-yard line. Two plays later, Alwan scored from a yard away.

It was 7-7 late in the game when Jackson dropped into coverage in the left flat and grabbed another interception.

He ran 10 yards to the Timber Creek 10, and Alwan scored four plays later on a fourth and goal from the 1 with 3 minutes, 35 seconds left in the game.

"I wanted to get in the end zone" on the return, Jackson said. "But he grabbed my leg. I'm glad we were able to finish it and get the touchdown."

To recap: Camden Catholic's two scoring drives covered 8 and 10 yards.

Without those short fields, the Irish probably don't score and likely lose their opener by a 7-0 score.

But Camden Catholic's best offense was its defense, and its best offensive weapons were its two senior linebackers.

"I believe we have the best defense around," Jackson said. "I believe in my team."

Camden Catholic   0 7 0 7 – 14

Timber Creek   0 7 0 0 – 7

CC: Jarred Alwan 1 run (Albert Faiola kick)

TC: Zaire Williams 35 pass from Myles Nash (Kevin Casey kick)

CC: Alwan 1 run (Faiola kick)