Bearcats gear up for game against bigger, stronger Cairo team

Published 5:58 pm Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Bainbridge Bearcats’ second game of the season against Lincoln (Tallahassee) was washed away by Hurricane Hermine last week, but the schedule is back on track as the team preps to host the rival Cairo Syrupmakers (1-1) Friday night.

Cairo (Region 1-AAAA) is hot off a close 23-17 loss to Thomas County Central last Friday night, but opened its season with a strong 23-12 win over Thomasville. Both games were played at West Thomas Stadium in Cairo.

Quarterback John Michael Owens returns as a senior this year. Last season, he was 121-for-233 passing for 1,213 yards, scoring seven touchdowns and throwing eight interceptions, one of which came in the final minutes of the 2015 Region Championship against Bainbridge.

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Owens and the rest of the Syrupmakers will no doubt be looking for redemption against the Bearcats come Friday.

“They are definitely faster and stronger from a year ago,” Bainbridge coach Jeff Littleton said.

Cairo’s offense relies on short passes and dumps to receivers while backing it up with a stout running game.

“They are a short passing game team, and they try to run it enough to keep you honest,” Littleton said. “(Owens) is a good player. He gets the ball to his receivers, and they have several running backs that run the ball well.”

One of the Syrupmakers’ biggest weapons is senior Jamal Thomas, who plays running back, wide receiver, defensive back and kickoff returner. Last season, he rushed for 211 yards on 46 carries and six touchdowns. He also had 10 receptions for 222 yards and three touchdowns. As a defensive back, he snagged six interceptions, and returned 12 kick offs for 486 yards.

Cairo’s defense is aggressive, Littleton said, and features big talent with senior defensive tackle Jeremiah Gordon, defensive end Jahseari Patterson, linebacker Walter Grant, and of course, Thomas in the secondary.

Bainbridge running back Dameon Pierce is practicing this week and is expected to play Friday night. During a scrimmage against Godby (Tallahassee) in August, Pierce suffered an ankle sprain and did not dress out for the season opener against Lee County on Aug. 26.

The Bearcats’ game against Lincoln may have been cancelled, but the 0-1 record and lack of a second game doesn’t do much to change Littleton’s practice plans for his team.

“It’s not any different,” Littleton said. “We are just working on ourselves, getting better each day. There are some things that we need to improve on from the week one game, and we have been working on those things.”

Bainbridge kicks off against Cairo at 7:30 p.m. at Centennial Field. The annual Syrup Sop pep rally will be held Thursday at 5 p.m. at Willis Park.