Bearcats coach gives state of football team, talks upcoming season at Rotary

Published 4:20 pm Tuesday, July 26, 2016


Bainbridge coach Jeff Littleton acknowledged last season was a big one for the Bearcat program.

But the program isn’t dwelling on the past. It’s looking straight ahead to this season.

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“We did lose 17 seniors, 12 of them starters,” Littleton said to Rotary Club Tuesday. “But I feel like we have a good nucleus coming back, and I am really excited about it.”

Since January, the Bearcats have been working in the weight room, lifting five days a week to get bigger, stronger and faster. More than a hundred kids have showed up to practice over the summer months, and they are determined to “leave their mark.”

“That is their saying, and they are eager to do that,” Littleton said.

Twenty-five seniors are returning this year. Littleton said this was his first group of freshmen since he came on as head coach in 2013.

Multiple camps were held this summer with Thomasville, Seminole County, Miller County, Berrien and Wakulla.

Bainbridge went to Colquitt County earlier this month for a one-day camp. The Packers are the two-time defending state champions and are viewed as a high school football powerhouse in Georgia. Any exposure to the team, its coaches and practice methods is a plus, Littleton said.

“I feel like if we can get around them and pick up some ideas, that is always good,” Littleton said.

Seven players are returning on offense, including senior quarterback Brett McLaughlin, running back Dameon Pierce and wide receiver Zyon McGee. The Bearcats’ combination of experience on all fronts—blocking, running, passing—makes for a balanced offense, Littleton said.

But the most that was lost was on the defensive side of the ball.

“We only have five back,” Littleton said. “Some of those kids played a little bit. We had four extra weeks of practice at the end of the season. We went to the semifinals. So hopefully that will pay off for those younger kids, even though they didn’t to get to play in a game. They got to practice, and that usually does pay off in the long run.”

Questions were asked from the audience ranging from the new Region 1-AAAAA of Bainbridge, Thomas County Central, Harris County, Warner Robins and Veterans to the conditioning at summer workouts.

Many of the questions centered on Pierce, who has verbally committed to Alabama and is being recruited by every major Division 1 school in the country. The running back will be a junior this season and is looking to build off last year’s 2,000-plus rushing yard season.

“He had an absolute great year last year, rushing for more than 2,000 yard,” Littleton said. “And he is just getting better and better. He has a good attitude and has never made under a B in school in two years. He is a great football player, a great kid and a great student. Good things come to good people.”

Littleton was asked about the research into football-related concussions and whether or not football was a sport kids should be encouraged to play, to which Littleton answered a resounding, “Most definitely.”

He added, “Football is teaching kids about life. Life is hard. Football is hard. We have to do a good job as a coaching staff and athletics trainers and parents to stay on top of our kids and where they are as far as injuries. It’s tough, and injuries happen, but I’ve had many people talk with me about that. I just believe football teaches you so much. It teaches you not to quit. Teaches you to be tough.”

The Bainbridge Bearcats play at Lowndes County Friday, Aug. 5, at 8 p.m. for a scrimmage, followed by another away scrimmage Thursday, Aug. 18, against Godby (Florida) at 7 p.m.

The Bearcats will return to open their season against Lee County Friday, Aug. 26. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.