A game that will be remembered

Published 3:35 pm Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Bainbridge’s 23-20 win over Buford last Friday is easily among my Top 5 favorite sports moments I’ve ever witnessed.

I’m not exaggerating.

Note: I’m not saying greatest sports moments (because as much as I hate to say it, the Kick Six is in that version of the Top 5), I’m saying favorite. As in the five most satisfying, sensational sports moments I’ve seen in 28 years of watching competitive athletics.

Goodness gracious, now that I really think about it, the Bainbridge win might be in the Top 3.

All I’ve ever heard since my high school days is how lightyears ahead Buford is than everyone else on the football field. You’ve heard it all too.

“They recruit!”

“It’s not even fair!”

“How are we supposed to compete with that?”

The fact of the matter is Buford has an outstanding football tradition. It reminds me of Notre Dame’s proud history. The Wolves even use the Fighting Irish’s fight song and wear the same colors.

By their football field, there is a large display listing every state championship the team has won. There were a lot up there. But I can proudly say I watched our very own Bainbridge Bearcats deny them the hopes of another entry on that display.

Everything seemed to be against Bainbridge up until kick off that night. The weather was freezing cold, wet and soggy. All the material I read said Buford was the favorite, with most projections shooting around a 14-point win for the Wolves. There are a lot of D1 committed players on Buford’s side, too. Intimidating, for sure.

But the Bainbridge side of the stadium was excited. Fans were cheering and clapping for our players as they exited and entered the locker room during the warm up period. I could see it on the kids’ faces. They knew what they had to do to win. They had lifted the weights. They had studied the film. They had scrimmaged on the practice field. Over and over and over.

All those extra reps during winter workouts. Those hot as hell summer sessions. The personal pains and losses of each and every one of the Bainbridge players and coaches.

All of it was to win this game.

Then Bainbridge kicked off. All the Buford hype evaporated. It was two teams, fighting in the rain. One wins, one loses. It was on.

The Bearcats electrocuted them. That’s the only way I can describe it. A blocked-punt for a safety and two touchdowns put Bainbridge ahead 16-0 halfway through the first quarter. I was staring at the scoreboard in disbelief, as I’m sure many others were too.

The rain got heavier and the wind started to blow harder. The ball was slick. Passes were dropped on both sides. Bainbridge stuck to its bread and butter and pounded the Buford defense with running backs Caleb McDowell and Rashad Broadnax, doing everything it could to wear them down.

Buford did the same and responded with two impressive touchdown series in the second quarter. But Bainbridge blocked an extra point, giving them so much needed encouragement.

To open the second half, McDowell took a kickoff return 91 yards to the end zone. Bainbridge was up 23-13. Another shot of adrenaline that warmed up the sideline and our crowd. The rain kept coming. Bainbridge kept fighting. Bad luck on special teams and some misplays kept us out of the end zone for the rest of the game.

Then Buford found the end zone again with an explosive 64-yard touchdown run.

Thankfully, from then on Bainbridge’s defense drew a “Do Not Cross” line in the grass and protected it like its life depended on it.

The Wolves had a chance to tie the game around the 2-minute mark. They lined up for a 30-yard field goal. The kick was a little lower than usual, and we got a hand on it. Denied. Bainbridge was hanging on.

More rain. More wind.

We got the ball after the blocked field goal, but couldn’t make much happen. Buford wouldn’t allow it. We turned the ball over on downs and the Wolves had one last chance. Our defense made its final stand, Roman Harrison had a clutch sack, and it all came down to one final fourth down play. A pass.

It sailed to the back of the end zone and Bainbridge broke it up. Fifteen seconds on the clock.

Victory.

Our guys were beyond excited. Coach Jeff Littleton told them how they had just shocked the world. But in a way, I think our players knew they were capable of playing like that all along.

Only a handful of teams in the past 15 years can say they have beaten Buford. Mark down Bainbridge as the latest.

Now it’s onto Stockbridge, and if our players want it badly enough, Mercedes-Benz Stadium will be calling them after that.