Bearcats make fourth quarter comeback to overcome St. Pius X

Published 12:36 am Saturday, November 28, 2015


Running back Dameon Pierce sprints down the sideline as St. Pius X players fall over chasing him. This run ended in a touchdown that put the Bearcats up 18-17 against the Golden Lions in the fourth quarter. — Jessica Cannon

Dameon Pierce took the handoff, found a hole in the offensive line, and kicked it into second gear as he hustled toward the end zone for a 39-yard touchdown and the go-ahead score Friday night against St. Pius X (10-3).

The Golden Lions missed a 59-yard field goal with seven seconds left on the clock, and Bainbridge (13-0) prevailed for the 18-17 win in round three of the State Class AAAA Playoffs at Centennial Field.

The Bearcats were down 17-6 in the fourth quarter when Pierce rushed for a 72-yard touchdown, making a defender miss in open field before he found the end zone. A missed 2-point conversion pass from quarterback Brett McLaughlin kept the score at 17-12.

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“They put the ball in my hand and expected me to score,” Pierce said about his touchdown run. “It was well-executed by my line and my fullback Malique Pate. When I made that one guy miss, it was home run.”

Bainbridge’s defense forced a three-and-out on St. Pius X’s next series, and Pierce returned to score again, this time on a 39-yard run, to give Bainbridge the 18-17 lead. A 2-point conversion pass from McLaughlin to wide receiver Tyler Storey was ruled out of bounds.

“I knew I had to come off the ball really hard,” offensive tackle Charles Hightower said about blocking for Pierce. “If I come off the ball really hard, they don’t have a chance.”

St. Pius X marched 24 yards before attempting the 59-yard field goal on 4th and 12, missing wide left on the kick. During the drive, linebacker Jordan Martin perfectly timed a snap and leapt over the line for a sack that left the clock running and the Golden Lion’s scrambling for a spike.

“I timed it up so perfect,” Martin said. “As soon as he snapped it I jumped over.”

McLaughlin was 8-for-16 passing with 73 yards and a rushing touchdown.

St. Pius X took advantage of a blocked punt on Bainbridge’s opening drive, returning it 35 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead. The Bearcats pushed down the field again and McLaughlin scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak. Blake Green’s point after attempt was a miss and Bainbridge trailed 7-6 in the first quarter.

St Pius X kicked a 33-yard field goal before halftime and Bainbridge went into the locker room trailing 10-6.

The Golden Lions made the score 17-6 on a 3-yard rush early in the fourth quarter, and the Bearcats were suddenly put in a situation where it was score or go home. Pierce then scored on back-to-back drives and carried Bainbridge to their first 13-0 start in school history.

“What happened was our kids and coaching staff believed and trusted each other,” coach Jeff Littleton said. “They trusted themselves to do the job. Everybody believes in what we’re doing. We expect to win, we never give up, and that’s what we do.”

Littleton said Bainbridge’s two touchdowns in the first quarter was part of the team’s game plan to take advantage of a tired Golden Lions defense.

“The whole thing is we threw the short game from sideline to sideline in the first half,” Littleton said. “We kept trying to do that and tire them out. That’s what we’re trying to do all year, wear everybody down so in the fourth quarter (Pierce) and our offensive line can do their thing.”

Bainbridge is set to face Cartersville (13-0) next Friday for the State Semifinals. A coin flip determined Cartersville will host.

Kick off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

Bainbridge’s last appearance in the state semifinals was 1993.