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Bearcats defeat Hardaway 20-13

Strong defensive play and a solid ground game led by running back Thomas Smiley helped the Bainbridge Bearcats defeat the Hardaway Golden Hawks 20-13 in a football game played on a chilly Friday night in Columbus, Ga.

Hardaway quarterback Marcus Smith threw a 78-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Shelbie Gregg on the game’s first play from scrimmage, and an Evan Scott extra point made it 7-0.

Rohan Gaines ran 7 yards for a touchdown on an option run on the left side with 5:32 in the second quarter to culminate a 6-play, 30-yard drive. Shawn Samuels set up the drive by returning a punt 17 yards from the Hardaway 47 to the 30. Thomas Smiley got 3 to the 27. Gaines got 5 on a keeper to the 22. Smiley got 3 and a first down to the 19. Smiley got 6 to the 13. Jeremy Harper got 6 to the 7, then Gaines ran in for the touchdown. Keenan Adams’ extra point attempt was wide to the left, making the score 7-6 in Hardaway’s favor.

With 50 seconds remaining in the half, the Bearcats’ No. 27 broke through the line to block Scott’s attempted 26-yard field goal attempt.

Bainbridge kicked off to Hardaway, but the Bearcats recovered a short time later. On the final play of the half, Gaines completed a long pass to Harper in Hardaway territory, but the clock expired.

Smiley ran 6 yards for a touchdown with 8:30 left in the third quarter to culminate a 7-play, 80-drive and Adams’ extra point put the Bearcats up 13-7. The key play in the drive was a 54-yard Smiley run from his own 34 to the Hardaway 12.

Smiley ran two yards for a touchdown with 4:47 left in the third quarter to culminate a 7-play, 33-yard drive. Adams’ extra point made it 20-7. The drive started after the Bearcats recovered a Hardaway fumble at their 33-yard-line.

Hardaway running back James Triplett ran two yards for a touchdown with 2:09 left in the third quarter to culminate an 8-play, 73-yard drive. Scott’s extra point made it 20-13 in Bainbridge’s favor.

Strong defensive play helped the Bearcats hold on in th fourth quarter.

Defensive back Justin Harris intercepted a Hardaway pass in Bearcat territory, only to fumble the ball at midfield. Defensive back Delonte Martistee recovered the fumble to save the possession for the Bearcats.

BHS, led in the second half by quarterback Steven Bench for most of the game, ran down the clock near the end zone. Gaines came out of the game after a hand injury but stayed in the defensive secondary, his father Maurice Gaines said.

After Adams’ punted, Hardaway’s Scott returned a BHS punt 85 yards for an apparent touchdown late in the fourth quarter, but it was called back for an illegal block in the back against Hardaway in their own territory.

Safety Shawn Samuels, recovering a separated shoulder against Westside-Macon, broke up several key pass attempts by Hardaway in the fourth quarter. Harris had three interceptions on the game.

With one second remaining, Gibson intercepted Smith’s last-effort pass in the end zone to seal the victory for the Bearcats.

For the game, Smiley had 25 carries for 125 yards and two touchdowns.

With the win, the Bearcats are 5-2 overall and 3-2 in Region 1-AAAA play. Next week, Bainbridge plays the Upson-Lee Knights in a region game to be played in Thomaston next Friday night at 7:30 play.