‘We want to be the kings of southwest Georgia’ Bearcats prepare for Cairo rivalry

Published 7:00 pm Wednesday, November 1, 2023

The Bearcats welcome rivals Cairo to Centennial Field on Friday for the final game of the regular season. 

The game will also serve as the region championship. Both teams are undefeated in the region, and the team that stays undefeated will take the title and earn a No. 1 seed in the playoffs.

Bearcats’ head coach Jeff Littleton said he and his team have to stay disciplined amid the potential distractions and storylines to be successful Friday night.

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“the biggest thing is,” Littleton said. “Don’t read the papers about how many times we’ve won. Don’t look at how many points they’re scoring and how many they’re giving up. All of that don’t mean anything. Football is a game of matchups, and it’s going to be Cairo vs Bainbridge.”

It will be business as usual for the Bearcats in this week’s practices, according to Littleton. He said the team’s success in practice will determine the success they see in the game.

“Win Monday through Thursday and let the scoreboard take care of itself,” Littleton said. “You have discipline and you practice with intensity and focus. You execute the game plan in the classroom, the weight room, and the film room.”

The Syrupmakers are 8-1 under second-year head coach David Coleman. Coach Littleton described the team as “solid in all three phases of the game” and complimented their ground attack and effort on defense.

“It’s going to be a challenge for us and, you know, we’re up to it,” Littleton said. “They’ve got a really good run game on offense. They fly to the ball on defense. They’ve given up very few yards and very few points on defense. They’ve got a solid solid kicking game.”

Littleton served as the Syrupmakers defensive coordinator from 2006-2013, winning a state championship with them in 2008. Littleton made the move to Bearcat head coach from his position at Cairo in 2013. 

Since then, Littleton has coached 12 games against the Syrupmakers for Bainbridge and has a record of 8-3 against his former team.

“I don’t want to lose to a school that I’ve come from,” Littleton said. “So, it just adds a little extra emphasis.”

Outside of his ties to Cairo, Littleton said the rivalry has grown on him from the Bainbridge community.

“I had a lot of people in the community that told me when I got here,” Littleton said. “They don’t care how many games I win as long as I beat Cairo.”

The geographical vicinity of the two schools feeds into the rivalry. Cairo is the closest high school to Bainbridge in the region and the only team less than an hour’s drive away for the Bearcats. 

“We want to be the kings of southwest Georgia,” Littleton said.

The Bearcat-Syrupmaker rivalry has seen 78 matchups. The series record is Bainbridge 36 wins, Cairo 35 wins, and seven ties. 

The 79th rivalry iteration kicks off at home for the Bearcats on Friday at 7:30 p.m.