Just a few hours prior to kickoff, Nick Strom showed his team a video.
It wasn’t just any old video, but the historic 1974 fight between heavyweight champion George Foreman and Muhammad Ali – The Rumble in the Jungle, won by Ali with an eight-round knockout.
“Whenever you have a big game – a title fight – they are going to throw punches and you’re going to throw punches,” the Camden Catholic High School football coach said. “It’s the team that stays on an even keel that’s going to win.”
The Irish took their share of punches Friday night. They fumbled the ball away twice and were intercepted.
But they also delivered their hits, especially in the fourth quarter. Jordan Jefferson caused a fumble, Jamal Parker had a key 32-yard punt return to set up the offense in good field position and they scored a pair of touchdowns.
Tyree Rodgers’ 8-yard TD run put Camden Catholic ahead and Nazir Streater redeemed himself for losing the ball twice with a 43-yard interception return for a score as the Irish rallied for a 21-16 victory over rival Camden in a West Jersey Football League Royal Division game.
“We have very high character kids and they were motivated,” Strom said. “Last year was my fault; I called a bad game. They wanted to right the ship.”
Camden Catholic (5-0), No. 8 in the Courier-Post Mean 15, got a huge game offensively out of Streater. The junior rushed for 199 yards on 20 carries, scoring on a 66-yard run in the second quarter in addition to his late pick-six.
“I knew I’d be playing varsity this year, but to contribute this much and help us win the game … It’s incredible,” Streater said.
No. 4 Camden (3-2) won last year’s matchup 27-14. Penalties doomed the Panthers this time around.
“What can I say? We had way too many penalties,’ Camden coach Dwayne Savage said. “You don’t win a game with all of those penalties. We must have had 100-plus yards.”
Brad Hawkins accounted for both Camden touchdowns, scoring on a 1-yard keeper in the first quarter and a 3-yard TD pass from Drew Harris in the fourth. The Panthers also had two safeties.
Trailing 8-7 at halftime, the Irish made the necessary adjustments – one in particular.
“Our line coach said that we should just run the ball,” Strom said.
They did so behind Streater, and picked up the go-ahead TD when Rodgers showed his athleticism and raced around the left side.
“He brings a true running threat,” Parker said. “Naz just makes things happen.
“This was huge. We let one slip away last year and that stuck with me for a whole year. I couldn’t wait for this day.”
Camden cut its deficit late on Hawkins’ second TD, but Streater came up big and corralled the ensuing onside kick. The Irish were able to take the remaining seconds off the clock, giving up a safety on the game’s final play.
“We are very motivated to be up there on the depth charts. These kids want to be up there with the elite teams,” Strom said.
Said Streater: It’s incredible. Now we know we’re on the path of going undefeated this year.
“We went in at halftime and knew the game was still there. You just have to keep swinging.”
Player of the game: Nazir Streater rushed for 199 yards and a touchdown to go along with a 43-yard interception return for a score.
Play of the game: Streater’s 43-yard INT return helped seal the outcome.
Well said: “After the second fumble, I put my head down. Everyone told me to put my head up and keep moving. You just have to move on to the next play” – Streater
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•Player of the game: Nazir Streater rushed for 199 yards and a touchdown to go along with a 43-yard interception return for a score.
•Play of the game: Streater’s 43-yard INT return helped seal the outcome.
•Well said: “After the second fumble, I put my head down. Everyone told me to put my head up and keep moving. You just have to move on to the next play” – Streater