Football: Premire Wilson leads Camden
The senior quarterback, playing for the Panthers for the first time this season, has the team on the brink of a high seed in the South Jersey Group 2 tournament.
The pass, the catch, the touchdown — all improbable.
The victory — unlikely as well.
But there was something fitting about the fact that Premire Wilson was front and center in Camden's remarkable rally to
beat previously undefeated Rancocas Valley last Friday night in Farnham Park.
Camden is one of the surprise teams of the South Jersey football season and Wilson is one of the surprise players.
A senior quarterback who never played a down for Camden before this season, Wilson has emerged as a dynamic dual threat and has combined with a sturdy defense and a workhorse running back to push the Panthers back into prominence.
"He's been getting better every week," Camden coach Dwayne Savage said of Wilson. "We changed the offense to take advantage of what he can do, and he's been making a lot of plays."
Wilson will lead visiting Camden (6-1), the No. 12 team in the Inquirer Top 25, into Friday night's intriguing West Jersey
Football League Constitution Division game with Winslow Township (3-4).
Led by junior quarterback Prince-dru Bey, Winslow Township has won two in a row and likely would clinch a berth in the
South Jersey Group 4 tournament with a victory over Camden.
But Camden has a lot on the line as well. The Panthers could clinch a top two seed in the South Jersey Group 2 tournament,
perhaps smoothing the program's path to its first sectional title since 1976.
"We've got to finish out," Wilson said. "These next few weeks, playoffs, we've got to finish strong and bring it home."
The 5-foot-9, 160-pound Wilson is 60-for-103 passing for 893 yards with seven touchdowns. He also has carried the football
66 times for 373 yards (5.7-yard average) and and a pair of scores.
Wilson has picked up his play in recent weeks, thanks in part to Camden's switch to an offensive system that gives the
quarterback a run-pass option on nearly every play.
"It's better for me," Wilson said. "I get to run or pass. I feel as though I'm more comfortable with the ball in my hands.
I think it's right for me, that package, it fits me, my playing style."
Wilson was a quarterback for the Whitman Park youth program and played the position for the Camden junior-varsity as a
freshman. But he moved to Clayton as a sophomore and played defensive back that season for the Clippers.
Last year, Wilson moved back to Camden but sat out the season because of academic issues.
"He came to every practice," Savage said of Wilson. "He almost became like another coach. He worked hard on the scout team
and just tried to learn as much as he could."
Wilson said sitting out his junior season was tough, especially since Camden struggled to a 3-7 record.
"I knew I had come to work every practice, every day," Wilson said. "It was hard. Things could go wrong and in my head I
was like, 'That could have been me, I could have made that play.'
"It made me want to play so bad. I learned from it."
Camden has fashioned a strong season with an active defense led by senior end Eli Sloan-El and a potent ground game led by senior running back Najyere Edwards.
Wilson probably played his best game in Camden's comeback victory over Rancocas Valley, a Group 5 power that built a 17-0
lead in the first half. He passed for 138 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 31 yards and another score.
He also made the play of the game, with help from senior wide receiver Dave Taplin, who caught a 50-yard touchdown pass on
a "Hail Mary" on the final snap of the first half.
Savage joked that the play was executed to perfection: "Yeah, we said let it hit off three of their guys and then catch
Wilson said the play was basically "drawn up" by the coaches in the moments before the snap.
"Truthfully, I thought I was going to get sacked," Wilson said with a smile. "I threw it, and it seemed like they had it in
their hands and I looked again and saw David running with the ball.
"I was shocked. It was the perfect play at the perfect time."
Game at a glance
Camden (6-1) at Winslow Township (3-4), Friday at 7 p.m.
At stake: Camden can clinch a top two seed in the South Jersey Group 2 tournament, while Winslow Township can clinch a
berth in the South Jersey Group 4 tournament.
Last year: Camden beat Winslow Township, 14-0.
Streaks: Camden has won five in a row while Winslow Township has won two in a row.
Camden players to watch: Senior defensive end Sloan-El (42 tackles, 13 sacks) and senior running back Edwards
(106 carries, 809 yards, 7 TDs; 13 receptions, 203 yards, 2 TDs).
Winslow Township players to watch: Junior quarterback Bey (114-for-196 passing for 1,736 yards and 15 TDs; 84
rushes for 408 yards and 6 TDs) and senior wide receiver Isaiah Shaw (38 catches for 769 yards and 5 TDs).
Key matchup: Can Camden's top defense, which has held four opponents to a touchdown or less, contain Winslow Township's
Pick: Camden, 26-20.