CAMERON - With just two games remaining in the regular season, the playoffs actually began early for Coach Jim Rogers and his Cameron football team.
The Dragons entered Friday sitting in the No. 17 spot in the West Virginia Class A playoff rankings and could not afford another slip-up.
With senior quarterback Ryan Hughes leading the way, the Dragons took care of business and kept their postseason dreams alive.
Hughes threw four first-half touchdown passes, two to junior Mark Walker, and Cameron marched up and down the field at will, rolling to a 54-12 victory against winless Bellaire St. John at cold and sloppy Dragon Field.
The victory gives Rogers' crew a 5-4 record heading into the regular-season final next Friday night at Bridgeport.
''We needed this one,'' Rogers said. ''And overall I am pretty pleased - we did what we set out to do. Now we have to go to Bridgeport next week and take care of our business.''
It took the Dragons little time to get rolling, moving 64 yards on nine plays and taking 2:21 off the clock to dent the scoreboard first. Hughes capped the march with a perfect 18-yard strike to Walker across the middle for six. Nikolai Arnesen's PAT made it a 7-0 lead.
Cameron made it 14-0 before the clock turned out of the first quarter when Hughes finished off a seven-play, 50-yard drive with a 19-yard scoring toss to sophomore Zach Hall.
The Fighting Irish put a nice drive together in the first half, culminating in an early second-quarter score. Senior quarterback Travis Ogden twice converted fourth-down runs on the 68-yard march, the second ending in a 2-yard touchdown run at 9:52. The run for two failed after a bad snap from center.
Unfortunately for the Irish, it took the Dragons 37 seconds to answer. A nice kickoff return by Hall, a 15-yard personal foul penalty and Hughes' third touchdown pass of the half put the hosts in the end zone again.
Hughes' quick toss to Austin Warsinsky resulted in a 34-yard race down the near sideline for six at the 9:15 mark. The two-point pass attempt was batted away and it stood at 20-6.
Both teams made mistakes late in the first half, but the only one that turned out to be costly was committed by St. John. Cameron fumbled on a long pass with a little more than 2 minutes to play on a lateral attempt, giving the ball to the Irish.
But on fourth down with 40 seconds to go, St. John's punter knelt down to field the ball and was ruled down at his own 8. On the next play Hughes hit Walker in the back of the end zone for the score. The PAT failed but it was 26-6 at the half.
Cameron added three third-quarter scores on a 46-yard Hughes to Alex Jones touchdown pass, a 21-yard Devin Starcher run and a 4-yard burst by Andrew Hale late in the quarter to make it a 47-6 count.
Hughes' scoring pass to Jones tied a school record with five touchdown passes.
John Alvey's 1-yard burst gave St. John a second touchdown in the fourth before freshman Clayton Ward busted off a 51-yard scoring run late in the contest to cap the scoring.
While St. John finished with a respectable 244 rushing yards, Hughes capped off a big night by throwing for 239 yards and the five touchdowns.
''It has been a long time since we had anything like that out here,'' Rogers added. ''Especially in conditions like this. We worked on the field, but I suppose a lot of fields look bad (Friday).
''We wanted to come out early while the ball was dry and throw it and the kids responded. Our offensive line also did a heckuva a job. This was the last game on this field for our seniors and we talked about that.
''I think we did a good job spreading the ball around also. Give St. John credit, that Ogden kid is very tough and they run a very disciplined offense.''
For Coach Paul Rose it was another case of failing to finish off drives.
''We ran for some yards, but it is just difficult when you can't complete drives,'' he said. ''A couple of interceptions hurt us also. But I will say that the kids did not quit and they just kept coming and playing hard and that is all we care about.''