The Bearcats deserve better than blown calls in the playoffs

Published 3:12 pm Monday, November 17, 2014


Bainbridge coach Jeff Littleton talks to his players after the disappointing 23-17 loss to West Laurens last Friday in the first round of the State Class AAAA playoffs. — Jeff Findley

There are an immeasurable number of factors that go into how a team wins or loses a football game. Every single play call, every single block, every single step; each can lead you to glory, and each can be your downfall.

But sometimes, on occasions that aren’t rare enough, the outcome of a game falls into somebody else’s hands: the officials.

Last Friday had all the makings for a phenomenal Bearcat victory at West Laurens High School in the first round of the State Class AAAA playoffs. The Raiders were trailing 14-10 with 4:10 left in the game, and they had the ball on Bainbridge’s 41-yard line. It was third-and-10.

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If Bainbridge wanted to seal their lead, this was the stop they needed.

Quarterback Garrel Quainton dropped back and looked for a receiver. No one was open. Before he was able to tuck the ball and salvage a small gain, the Bearcat defense had him surrounded.

Someone got a hand on Quainton’s arm. Out popped the ball.

There was no whistle. With every ounce of effort he had left in him, senior defensive lineman Tramaine McCrae scooped the bouncing pigskin and bolted 46 yards to the end zone, referees running with him.

Touchdown. Put a Bearcat six on it, baby. We’re up 20-10.

But not so fast.

One referee—who was closest to the fumble and had the clearest view as the play unfolded—lifted his arms to signal the score. The other ref—all the way on the other side of the field with hardly a view of the fumble—ruled it a forward pass.

McCrae’s touchdown was for naught. Fourth down, Raiders.

The Bearcats later allowed a touchdown, and Bainbridge kicker Evan Oldaker hit a 21-yarder to tie the score at 17-all right as the clock ran out. In overtime, the Raiders were able to drive in for a game-winning touchdown.

Bearcat coach Jeff Littleton stood tall as his players knelt around him for the post-game speech. Some had tears swelling in their eyes. Other stared blankly in disbelief.

The season was over. And the worst part of it all? The refs admitted to Littleton they blew the call on McCrae’s touchdown. Even West Laurens’ coach didn’t agree with it.

Almost every single player on the 2014 Bainbridge football roster has put in enough hard work, blood and sweat to fill the Bainbridge City Pool (a gross visual, but I rest my case).

They worked their tails off, and it all culminated in an admitted blown call that would have won Bainbridge the game?

You’ve got to be kidding me.

This is the playoffs, folks. This is what everything has been building toward since the end of last season. This isn’t some friendly scrimmage that carries no consequences. Remember—every single play call, every single block, every single step. Bainbridge did its part.

It’s a crying shame this one fell out their hands and into the hands of the most questionable officials I’ve ever seen. Someone, please revoke their licenses and save some poor team down the road from suffering more blown calls with the game on the line.

Bainbridge earned that touchdown. The Bearcats deserve to be traveling to Stephens County Friday for round two instead of West Laurens.

The team is at their peak. It’s disgraceful to see this momentum come to a screeching halt.

Yet we still move on.

To all the seniors: you’ve started something here. A lot of heart has been shown this season, and with it plenty to be proud of.

To all the Bearcats returning next year: keep working hard, buy into what the coaches are teaching and you’ll return next year as the biggest threat Class AAAA has ever seen.

Make it happen.