Bearcats Football Preview Week 5: Ware County

Published 9:41 am Thursday, September 21, 2023

The Bearcats welcome Ware County to Bainbridge Friday for their first game in two weeks.

The Gators are defending Class AAAAA state champions, have one of the most physical and athletic defensive lines in the state, and are equipped with offensive weapons across the field. Sounds pretty good on paper.

“Good thing we don’t have to play it on paper, ain’t that right,” Head coach Jeff Littleton said.

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Littleton described the team as “well coached” and said they play hard. Gator’s head coach, Jason Strickland, has won four region titles with four different teams in his career and is coming off a state title from last season. 

The Bearcats have played the Gators for the past three seasons and have yet to secure a victory.

“Every game we’ve played has been a good game… other than two years ago,” Littleton said. “We’ve had some good matchups, and I expect this one will be the same.”

Coach Strickland said the team is “very strong in the defensive box” in an interview with Todd Holcomb, the co-founder and editor of Georgia High School Football Daily. 

The Gators have three returning starters in the box. Of them is junior defensive end Jamar Birden. The three-star recruit totaled 43 tackles, 14 quarterback hurries, three sacks, two pass breakups and a fumble return last season, according to his 247sports profile.

Littleton said he’s aware of the threat the Gators impose on the line and emphasized the importance of mitigating that in Friday’s matchup.

The Gators bring a dual threat in the run game with senior Dae’jeaun Dennis and junior Rj Boyd. The duo combined for more than 2000 yards last season and have rushed for 500 this season.

The Bearcats have seen two good running backs in Coffee’s Fred Brown and TCC’s Trey Brenton this season.

“[Boyd] is kind of similar to Coffee’s running back and [Dennis] is kind of similar to Thomas County Central’s,” Littleton said. “We’re going to have to make them throw it in order to have a chance to win.”

Along with forcing Ware County to the air, Littleton said it will be important for the Bearcats to put a lid on the Gator offense if they want to see their names in the win column. 

“We just try to not give up big plays,” Littleton said. “Runs of 15 or more yards and passes of 20 or more yards, if we can limit those and then make some of those of our own, that’s going to give us a better chance to win a football game.” 

The game comes two weeks after the Bearcats played last. The team had a dead week last week, meaning there was no game Friday. Littleton said the extra week of preparation gave the team time to work on fundamentals and technique.

“We really emphasized blocking and tackling and went back and did some fundamental work in both of those areas to get better,” Littleton said. “We definitely made a big improvement in it, and hopefully, we can carry it to the grass Friday.”

Littleton said he’s focusing on discipline in this week’s practice leading up to the game.

“Discipline equals execution,” Littleton said. “If we can be disciplined in the things the coaches are putting into place, hopefully, we’ll execute on Friday night.”

The game is at home at Centennial Field, kickoff at 7:30.