By Doug Chapin
The Campbell Red Devils bounced back from their only defeat of the season, recording five interceptions — including two returned for touchdowns — in a 35-21 victory Friday night over Champion High.
Campbell improved to 6-1 overall and 2-0 in the All-American Conference Blue Division. The Devils have a division showdown looming next Friday against Girard. Champion is 4-3 and 1-2 in the Blue Division.
“Our kids did a good job bouncing back after we lost to a fine football team in Salem,” first-year Campbell coach Mickey Sikora said about last week‘s result. “We were upset all week and the kids practiced hard and they bounced back pretty well tonight.”
Quarterback Lester Hughes passed for 230 yards (13-for-23) and his 1-yard scoring run midway through the final quarter left Campbell ahead 28-7. But it took a 36-yard interception return for a touchdown by Claxton Lebron with 2:03 left to clinch the victory after Champion closed within 28-21.
“When you have five interceptions and a fumble and I don’t know how many yards in penalties, you aren’t going to beat a bad team, much less one as good as Campbell,” Champion coach Terry Howell said. “They are a good football team all the way around, not only in the secondary. I thought we played really well, I thought we just made too many mistakes.”
Jim Rasey rushed for 187 yards on 30 carries and Travis Damron added 64 yards as the Golden Flashes did most of their damage offensively on the ground.
Campbell scored first on a 13-yard pass from Hughes to Richard Bledsoe (six catches, 80 yards) midway through the first quarter. Defensive lineman Jose Martinez then intercepted a screen pass early in the second period and ran 14 yards for Campbell’s second touchdown.
Champion responded with a 70-yard scoring drive which included runs of 21 and 28 yards by Rasey and a 9-yard scoring run by Damron. When the Flashes’ defense forced a punt, it looked like momentum had changed.
But Dewaylan Letlow came up with an interception off a tipped pass and the Red Devils were set up at the Champion 37. A 19-yard connection between Hughes and Bledsoe on third-and-10 set up a 5-yard scoring run by Ja’les Hughes with 1:12 remaining in the half.
“Our secondary came to play tonight, they played how we know they are capable of playing,” Sikora said. “And I think our front seven got after it pretty good and that helped us out as well.”
Down 28-7, Champion began its comeback with a 47-yard scoring strike from Shane Brown to Nathan Vesey off a deflected pass. A personal foul against Campbell on the touchdown had Champion kicking off 15 yards closer, and when the Flashes recovered their onside kick, they had the ball at the Campbell 25.
A defensive pass interference call on fourth-and-17 kept the possession going and Rasey eventually scored from seven yards out with 3:19 left in the game.
The Flashes’ defense forced a punt, then Lebron made his big play on the next snap to ice the victory.