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Cats play big for win

Shawn Samuels returned a punt 63 yards for a touchdown, and Thomas Smiley ran three yards for a touchdown, leading the Bainbridge Bearcats to a 14-6 Region 1-AAAA and homecoming victory over the Americus-Sumter County Panthers Friday night at Centennial Field.

Panthers kicker Adam Heath kicked a 33-yard field goal with 4:30 left in the first quarter to give the Panthers a 3-0 lead. The Panthers drove 60 yards in 12 plays to the Bearcat 12 to set up the field goal. Key plays in the drive included an 18-yard pass from Shawn Robinson to tight end Kyle Champion from the Bearcats’ 32 to midfield. On a fourth down and one, running back Jerroski Walton ran three yards for a first down from the 26 to the 23.

Samuels punt return touchdown gave the Bearcats a 6-3 lead. After an illegal procedure penalty against the Bearcats, Keenan Adams’ extra point from the 15-yard line increased the advantage to 7-3.

Adams’ 39-yard field goal attempt with 5:35 left in the second quarter was wide to the left.

Adams’ 42-yard field goal attempt with 2:20 left in the second quarter was blocked, giving the ball to the Panthers.

A 41-yard field goal attempt by the Panthers’ Heath with two seconds left in the half was short, leaving the score 7-3 at halftime.

Heath, made a 38-yard field goal with 7:30 left in the third quarter to cut the Bearcats’ lead to 7-6. The Bearcats drove 77 yards in 10 plays to the Bearcats’ 21 to set up the field goal attempt.

Samuels returned the ensuing kickoff 61 yards from his own 8-yard line to the Panthers’ 31. Smiley went up the middle for three to the 28, After Rohan Gaines was stopped for no gain, Gaines completed a pass to Smiley for 12 and a first down at the 16.

Smiley took a pitch left and got five to the 11, then Gaines got one to the 10 and two to the 8.

On fourth and two from the 8, Jeremy Harper took a pitch and went right for five and a first down at the 3. Smiley then went up the middle for the touchdown with 4:18 left in the third quarter to culminate the eight-play, 31-yard drive, and Keenan Adams kicked the extra point to give the Bearcats their final 14-6 lead.

The Bearcats were led by Gaines with 16 carries for 44 yards and Smiley with 12 carries for 33 yards and a touchdown.

The Bearcats are 6-3 on the season and 4-3 in Region 1-AAAA play. They will host the Thomas County Central High School Yellow Jackets in their final Region 1-AAAA and regular season game next Friday night at Centennial Field.