Cats earn hard-fought victory

Published 11:59 pm Friday, October 19, 2012

Bainbridge linebacker B.J. Cheatem intercepted a pass at the Bainbridge 3-yard-line with 3 seconds left, as the Bearcats held on for a 24-19 victory over a feisty Hardaway Hawks team Friday night at Centennial Field.

One play earlier, facing a third-and-17 from the Bainbridge 29, Hardaway’s Tetris Sweat attempted a pass toward the endzone that was knocked away but caught on the rebound by a Hawk at the Bainbridge 5. The Hawks then brought in quarterback William Teal, who tried to complete a pass to the right side, but Cheatem read the play perfectly and took the ball away.

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“When I saw the quarterback release the ball I knew I could get it,” said Cheatem, a senior. “I knew I had to get it. We had to get a win by any means possible.”

It looked like Bainbridge (4-3, 1-2 in Region 1-AAAAA) would be able to salt away an easy victory after Terry Lewis scored a 2-yard touchdown with 6:06 left in the fourth quarter, putting the Bearcats ahead 24-13 after Daniel Provence’s extra point. But the Hawks didn’t go gracefully, coming right back when Sweat ran for a 21-yard touchdown run with 4:23 left. Hardaway (2-5, 0-2) tried a two-point conversion, but Cheatem intercepted a Teal pass to keep the Bearcats ahead 24-19.

Bainbridge got the ball back and went three-and-out, punting it back to Hardaway with 2:03 left. The Hawks started their final drive at the Bainbridge 41, but Cheatem and the Bearcats’ defense kept them from getting the go-ahead score.

“We had some opportunities that we let get away from us,” Bainbridge coach Ed Pilcher said. “We dropped an interception and did a bad job on kickoff coverage, so we’ve got a lot to work on. It was huge to get this win; we had to have it.”

The Bearcats did their damage in a familiar way, by constantly pounding the ball on the ground. Quarterback Damian Bouie finished with 15 carries for 152 yards and a touchdown, and Lewis had 16 carries for 174 yards and two touchdowns.

“That’s the way that we like to play,” Lewis said. “We like to get in there and get after it.”

Early Friday night, it looked like the teams would be headed for a shootout. Sweat returned the opening kickoff 92 yards and David Scott added the extra point to put Hardaway ahead 7-0 just 14 seconds into the game.

But the Bearcats responded right back, as Bouie broke away for a long 77-yard touchdown run on his first carry of the game. Provence’s extra point tied the game at 7-7 with 11:00 remaining in the first quarter. On Bouie’s scoring play, a Hardaway player was badly injured and had to be transported to the hospital by ambulance.

Provence added a 37-yard field goal with 1:35 left in the first quarter to put the Bearcats ahead 10-7.

The Hawks moved back in front with 1:44 remaining in the second quarter, when Teal scored on a 1-yard touchdown run. Bainbridge’s Dontavious Baulkman blocked the extra point, and the Hawks took a 13-10 lead, which they kept until halftime.

The Bearcats moved back in front quickly in the third quarter. Lewis took a handoff and broke several tackles, even though he appeared stopped several different times, eventually pulling away for a 57-yard touchdown run that put Bainbridge ahead 17-13.

“That was all the offensive line,” Lewis said. “They were giving me a good push and keeping the pile going, and I was able to eventually break through.”

Bainbridge’s defense made a big stop early in the fourth quarter, with the Hawks facing a fourth-and-8 from the Bainbridge 11. Sweat was able to complete a pass, but it was only for 7 yards, and the Bearcats got the ball back on downs. That defensive stop started a 10-play, 93-yard drive that culminated with Lewis’ 2-yard touchdown run.

The Bearcats will continue a string of four straight region games, as they travel to Columbus on Friday, Oct. 26, to take on the Northside-Columbus Patriots. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.

“We know that there’s a sense of urgency for us to keep winning,” Pilcher said. “We have to make plays when we get the opportunity to make plays.”