Phil Anastasia: Willingboro pastes coach's alma mater, Camden

Willingboro quarterback Matt Dash dives into the end zone of visiting Camden in the first round of the South Jersey Group 2 tournament. He ran for 134 yards and two other touchdowns.
Willingboro quarterback Matt Dash dives into the end zone of visiting Camden in the first round of the South Jersey Group 2 tournament. He ran for 134 yards and two other touchdowns.
Posted: November 13, 2010

Reggie Lawrence said it was strange.

But it was familiar, too.

There was Lawrence, on the sideline in another playoff game, watching his team take another step toward another sectional title.

The weird part for Lawrence, Willingboro's well-traveled and much-accomplished coach, was the team on the other side of the field. It was the first time he had coached against Camden, his alma mater.

There was something special about the other head coach, too.

"We used to walk to school together every day," Lawrence said of Camden coach Durwin Pearson. "Then we'd walk to football practice and walk home together."

Lawrence was talking Friday night after his Willingboro team improved to 9-0 with an imposing, 45-13 victory over Camden in the first round of the South Jersey Group 2 tournament.

Quarterback Matt Dash ran for 134 yards and three touchdowns, and running back Jahlil Beacham added 136 yards and another score for the second-seeded Chimeras.

"Too much speed and too much size," Pearson said of Willingboro. "We saw their speed on film, but we just couldn't keep up with them."

It's odd to hear a Camden coach talk about another Group 2 team with too much size and speed for the Panthers. But that's Willingboro, looming as a serious threat to capture the sectional crown.

The Chimeras also have Lawrence, who has rejuvenated the program in his second season. Lawrence has been successful at every one of his coaching stops, including his first - at Camden.

Pearson was on his coaching staff in those days.

"It was strange for me to coach against Camden," said Lawrence, who also was a winning coach at Jackson and Pennsauken. "It was a little tough for me. I know all those guys. I didn't want it to get that lopsided."

Willingboro broke the game open with three touchdowns in the third quarter. After the third, which made the score 45-13 on the final play of the quarter, Lawrence ordered Dash to take a knee rather than try for the extra point.

"Reggie teaches the basics very well," Pearson said. "He does a great job getting his kids to play fundamental football."

Pearson said it was strange for him as well, coaching against one of his oldest friends.

"I lived at Baird and Boyd and he lived on Boyd," Pearson said. "We would walk to school every day. We spent a lot of time side by side on the football field."

Lawrence then went to North Carolina State, played briefly in the NFL, and has become one of South Jersey's most successful and nomadic coaches. Pearson has been in law enforcement in Camden for several years and also was an assistant at Camden for several years before becoming the Panthers' head coach last season.

The two old friends were on opposite sides in the first round of the playoffs.

Strange.

But it also was familiar to see a Reggie Lawrence team play with focus and discipline and move on to another round.

"I know this was a big game for Coach," Dash said. "He knows a lot of those guys. He used to coach there. This game meant a lot to him."

Camden 7 6 0 0 - 13

Willingboro 12 14 19 0 - 45

W: Matt Dash 5 run (kick fail)

W: Dash 2 run (pass fail)

C: Hubert Collins 1 run (Bra'deem Black kick)

C: Collins 9 run (kick fail)

W: Jahlil Beacham 10 run (Dash run)

W: Rashoun Houston 10 pass from Dash (kick fail)

W: Dash 13 run (Jumani Mack kick)

W: Tasai Clark 35 run (kick fail)

W: Isaiah Franklin 7 run (no attempt)


Contact staff writer Phil Anastasia at 856-779-3223 or panastasia@phillynews.com.

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