Close game falls apart at end as Bearcats take second loss

Published 12:10 am Saturday, September 30, 2017

Coach Jeff Littleton stood with a circle of players around him Friday night, telling them the game they just played was a test.

The scoreboard loomed behind the team, its orange numbers showing a final score of 41-27. Rickards (5-0) had scored two touchdowns in the final minutes of the game, crushing the hearts of a team that had fought the Raiders neck-and-neck all night.

It was a tough test, and a tough loss to swallow. But Littleton challenged his players to keep their heads up, not to quit. This was only game five, he said, not the end of the season.

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“Some people take a loss negatively, but as coach said, we’re going to take it as a learning point,” running back Dameon Pierce said. “We’ll come in Monday ready to work.”

Pierce suffered a hamstring injury at the end of the first half, only playing a few series in the second. Even still, he rushed for 293 yards on 23 carries and accounted for three touchdowns.

“It was a good team game overall, we just couldn’t finish it in the fourth quarter,” Pierce said.

Markel Broadnax traded plays with Pierce throughout the third quarter, but took over for good going into the fourth as Pierce’s injury kept him off the field.

Broadnax finished with 76 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown in the second quarter.

“We could’ve done better,” Broadnax said. “You can never give up. It’s a four quarter game. We just have to keep pushing.”

The Bearcats (4-2) were tied 27-27 with Rickards with just a couple minutes left in the game. The Raiders had possession of the ball and drained the clock as they inched toward the end zone. They scored on a 23-yard touchdown pass.

Bainbridge received the kick off with 1:05 left in the game. On the first play of the series, with Bainbridge on their own 17-yard line, quarterback Mark Loeffler threw an interception pass that was returned for a touchdown, sealing the win for the Raiders.

Loeffler finished 4-of-10 for 23 yards.

Bainbridge scored first on its second play from scrimmage. Pierce had just finished a 30-yard gain when he took the ball and danced through the trenches, breaking into the secondary and outracing defenders to the end zone.

When the Raiders got the ball back, they immediately scored on a 73-yard touchdown pass. Rickards pulled the same deep pass score on their next drive, missing the PAT and taking a 13-7 lead.

Bainbridge scored twice more before halftime and allowed a touchdown with 14 seconds left in the second quarter to tie the game at 20-20.

The Bearcats’ only score in the second half came from Pierce on a 53-yard tear down the field. Pierce made his way back to the sideline visibly in pain after the big run, and wouldn’t see play for the remainder of the game.

Defensive end Roman Harrison also injured his hamstring, rotating in only on certain plays.

“I kept telling the defense that we’ve got to focus on our job,” safety Zyon McGee said. “If you focus on someone else’s job, you get distracted. A lot of our starters were hurt. We could have done better, but in the condition we were in we did good.”

Bainbridge begins its Region 1-AAAAA schedule next Friday in Warner Robins against Veterans. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.