Provence’s 3 FGs help Bearcats top Early County
By JUSTIN SCHUVER and JOE CRINE
Managing Editor and Sports Editor
Sophomore placekicker Daniel Provence hit three field goals, including two kicks of more than 30 yards, and the Bearcats’ defense forced five turnovers as Bainbridge defeated visiting Early County, 16-12, Friday night.
Bainbridge (1-0) led 13-12 at the start of the fourth quarter, and Provence helped increase that lead by kicking a 42-yard field goal with 4:12 remaining in the game. On the ensuing drive, Early County (0-1) faced a fourth-and-30 situation with 2:21 remaining, but Jacori Taylor’s pass to Tracy Smith came up four yards short of the needed yardage.
The Bearcats were able to run out most of the rest of the clock, but the Bobcats got the ball back late. Taylor scrambled and tried to get off a desperation heave on fourth-and-15 with the clock expiring, but a Bainbridge defender tipped the pass harmlessly away.
“Their quarterback is a very special player and he made a lot of plays for them all night long,” Bainbridge coach Ed Pilcher said. “We tried to make some adjustments in the second half and I think they worked. Obviously our kicker came up huge for us — those three field goals made the difference.”
Bainbridge opened the game with a bit of a surprise, electing to pass on the very first play after returning the opening kickoff. The play worked to perfection, as Bainbridge quarterback Quincy Fortson connected with A. J. Miller, who rumbled close to the end zone after a 60-yard reception.
The Bearcats were pushed back by an illegal procedure penalty, but Provence was still able to hit a 23-yard field goal to give Bainbridge a 3-0 lead with 8:58 remaining in the first quarter.
“We planned to pass on the first play of the game,” Pilcher said. “[Offensive coordinator] Guyton thought it would work, and we’re glad that it did.”
The Bobcats came back with a scoring play of their own, as Devontay Spencer broke away for a 17-yard touchdown with 5:45 remaining. The extra point attempt was blocked by B. J. Cheatem, but Early County still led, 6-3.
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Bainbridge moved back in front later in the first quarter, thanks to a strong run by Terry Lewis. Lewis took a pitch up the left side and broke a tackle before being hit again, but remained on his feet and stayed in bounds. He then outran Early County defenders the rest of the way, scoring on a 42-yard run. Provence’s extra point put Bainbridge ahead 10-6, and the Bearcats added a 38-yard field goal by Provence with 12.8 seconds left in the second quarter to lead 13-6 at halftime.
Early County’s Taylor ran for a 5-yard touchdown run in the first series of the second half, but his two-point conversion pass was intercepted by Rodney Glenn in the end zone. The Bobcats still trailed, 13-12, with 7:34 left in the third quarter.
Bainbridge’s defense took over from there, as Bearcat defenders came up with big plays to snuff out the Bobcats’ second-half drives. Cheatem intercepted a pass with 8:58 left in the fourth quarter, and then forced a fumble with 5:20 left.
Cheatem hit Taylor and a running back during an attempted handoff, and punched the ball free as it squirted about 20 yards downfield. Bainbridge’s Anthony Jackson picked up the ball at midfield and ran it back 28 yards before being tackled. That fumble recovery set up Provence’s fourth-quarter field goal.
Lewis finished the game with 16 carries for 81 yards and a touchdown, while Fortson had 10 carries for 29 yards. He was also 3-of-6 passing for 10 yards.
Taylor led the Bobcats’ offense on both the ground and the air, rushing for 95 yards on 21 carries, and passing for 94 yards.
Bainbridge travels to face Cairo next Friday at 7:30 p.m., in a non-region rivalry game.