Cats look good after two games

Published 4:20 pm Tuesday, September 8, 2009

With coach Ed Pilcher’s Bainbridge School Bearcats football team posting 16-13 and 38-28 victories over the Cairo Syrupmakers and Early County Bobcats the first two games and enjoying an open date last Friday night, it’s probably a good time to evaluate their early season play.

This Friday night, the Bearcats will open their Region 1AAAA schedule with a 7:30 p.m. game against the Lee County High School Trojans in Leesburg.

One thing is evident, with Thomas Smiley and Jeremy Harper leading the way, they are able to move the ball on the ground.

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In their opening road win over Cairo, Smiley led the Bearcats in rushing with 16 carries for 82 yards and Harper was second with 14 carries for 37 yards.

Smiley was again the Bearcats’ leading ground gainer in their win over Early County, with 11 carries for 87 yards, but the big offensive punch was provided by Harper, who had touchdown runs of 14, 1 and 4 yards and caught a 44-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Rohan Gaines.

Bearcats junior place kicker and punter Keenan Adams has been a tremendous weapon for the Bearcats in their opening two victories.

His talented toe was the difference in the game against Cairo. He connected on three field goals, one for a school record 52 yards, and also booted the extra point following the Bearcats touchdown.

Adams continued his hot steak kicking against Early County connecting on a 31-yard field goal and going five for five on extra point attempts.

Another special teams player who has made major contributions to the Bearcats early season success is junior kickoff and punt returner Shawn Samuels. Against Cairo, Samuels had two kickoff returns for 29 yards, and against Early County he had one kickoff return for eight yards.

Possibly the fastest man on the team, Samuels has the ability to break a kickoff or punt return all the way every time the ball comes down in his arms.

Steve Bench, who built the offensive lines for Decatur County School Superintendent Ralph Jones’ 1982 Bearcats and 1990 Cairo High School Syrupmakers State Class AAA championship teams and one of the best offensive line coaches anywhere, has built a solid offensive line for the Bearcats this season, along with coach Tom Wheeler, who handles the defensive ends.

The line is anchored by senior returning starting center Jackson Kendrick.

It doesn’t matter how many skilled people you have, and the Bearcats have some good ones, they are not going to convert many big plays if the offensive line is not doing their job.

With Bench and Wheeler in charge of the offensive front, that will not be a problem.

Defensively, the Bearcats bend but don’t break. While they have given up some big yardage, they have also come up with some big plays to stop drives.

One of the biggest was turned in by senior strong safety Jonathan Warren, who blocked a punt to set up the Bearcats touchdown against Cairo.