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Playoffs provide clean slate

Bainbridge walked off the field last Friday after the Region Championship game against Warner Robins with heads sunk low.

A 35-6 loss to the Demons (10-0) is a difficult pill to swallow, but Bainbridge coach Jeff Littleton says that game, and the nine others Bainbridge played this season, aren’t important anymore.

The Bearcats are in the playoffs. It’s a new season altogether.

“There are 32 teams in 5A and everybody is 0-0,” Littleton said. “All our records are out the door. We just have to come with enthusiasm in practice and prepare like we are playing in a state championship on Friday night.”

Bainbridge (7-3, 2 seed Region 1-AAAAA) will host the New Hamstead Phoenix (5-4, 3 seed Region 2-AAAAA) Friday for the first round of playoffs.

New Hamstead is a young school led by first-year coach Michael Moore.

“They finished third in their region and that’s why they made the playoffs, because they really worked hard and really got a lot better at the end of the season,” Littleton said.

Quarterback Justin De La Fuente leads the charge for the Phoenix’s offense. Formerly a wide receiver before this season, Fuente is a heavy runner who doesn’t prefer to do much with his arm. He’s only passed 80 times this season for four touchdowns. Compare that to the 108 carries and seven touchdowns he’s scored on his feet through eight games.

If Fuente isn’t running it, he’s putting the ball in the hands of senior running back Jeremiah Daniels (75 carries, 596 yards, 11 TD thru eight games).

“Offensively they pretty much have a spread attack and their quarterback and running back are their main ball carriers,” Littleton said. “They throw the ball very little.”

On defense, The Phoenix roll with a 3-4 formation, complimented by stout outside linebackers and athletic inside linebackers.

“They are really quick out front, too,” Littleton said.

Heading into the playoffs, there aren’t any bad teams. Every opponent has the potential to beat Bainbridge, regardless of record.

As the Bearcats face more adversity like they did last Friday against Warner Robins and this week against New Hampstead, Littleton coaches the players to reach back to the grind of the summer and remember the basics.

“What we are preaching to the kids right now is when you play teams that are as good as you or better than you talent wise, you have to reach back into earlier in the year on the fundamentals that you learned and practiced to get through those games,” Littleton said. “We let some of those slack last week and it cost us.”

The Bearcats kick off against the Phoenix Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Centennial Field.