SUNDAY PREP FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK: Pilcher says Bainbridge's win vs. Cairo was oh, so sweet

Ed Pilcher and his Bearcats team celebrated late into the night Friday when they went into Cairo and dropped the No. 3 state-ranked Syrupmakers, 17-14.

Ed Pilcher and his Bearcats team celebrated late into the night Friday when they went into Cairo and dropped the No. 3 state-ranked Syrupmakers, 17-14.

CAIRO -- Was there a bigger win than the one Bainbridge pulled off Friday night against rival Cairo? Not only are the two teams big rivals, but there was so much more added to this showdown.

Everyone knows the Steven Bench saga by now. Bench, a Division I prospect who was Bainbridge's starting quarterback coming into the season, left for Cairo after going through spring practice with the Bearcats. What made the move even worse was that Bench's father, Steven Bench, was Bainbridge's offensive line coach, and he bolted, too.

The Bench exodus didn't sit well with Bainbridge, so Friday's game had enough drama to fill a Hollywood studio.

Cairo, ranked No. 3 in the Class AAA poll, was the big favorite, but Bainbridge went into Cairo and beat the Syrupmakers, 17-14.

"That was a good win, a very enjoyable win,'' Bainbridge coach Ed Pilcher said Saturday after having a day to reflect. "That was one of the sweeter wins we've had in a long time."

Pilcher has never ripped either Bench for leaving, other than saying it was a tough situation. Pilcher said when the younger Bench left he never even talked to his kids, because he didn't need to say a word.

He didn't mention Bench in his pregame peptalk on Friday, either.

"We didn't say anything before the game,'' Pilcher said. "We just went out and played.''

Boy did they.

Even after losing one of their top running backs (Damian Bouie left with an ankle injury) the Bearcats managed to move the ball against Cairo, which has one of the top defenses in the state.

Terry Lewis gained 101 yards and scored on twice, Daniel Provence kicked a 43-yard field goal and the Bainbridge defense did the rest, holding Cairo to just 138 yards of offense.

Bench, meanwhile, struggled mightily against his former team. He completed just 7 of 20 passes for 80 yards. He threw one TD and was intercepted once.

"He didn't do anything,'' Pilcher said of Bench. "We had two other balls that we dropped that would have been interceptions.''

The Bearcats (2-0) celebrated on the field afterward.

"It was a big win for us,'' Pilcher said. "It was good for our community. There were a lot of disgruntled folks. This was good for the town of Bainbridge.

"Any win is good, but some wins are better than others.'

VIRGIN COMES BACK WITH FURY FOR SEMINOLE: If there was a Herald Comeback Player of the Week, it'd go to Seminole County's Dee Virgin.

Virgin had to sit out the opener against state-ranked Wesleyan, plus the Indians were also facing some injuries and played short-handed, but led the game 40-36 with 1:30 left, before losing 43-40 on a 60-yard pass.

After watching Virgin's return in Week 2 against Terrell County, there's little doubt Seminole would have beaten Wesleyan if Virgin had played. He scored the first time he touched the ball on a 75-yard kickoff return, and he also caught a 29-yard pass for a TD and scored on a 51-yard run. Not bad for a guy whose future in college is in the secondary.

He has that kind of impact.

But what you really need to know about Virgin is the way the suspension impacted him.

"I made a big mistake,'' said Virgin, who was suspended for his conduct in school. "I learned from my mistake. It made me more humble. It was hard to watch (Seminole lose to Wesleyan). It hurt me.''

He said he couldn't wait to play again.

"I was anxious, too anxious,'' he said. "I just had to get back out there. I wanted to get back on the field and play my heart out. Just to see those Friday night lights again. I can't even explain it. I don't have words to explain how good it felt to get back on the field. I'm speechless.

"I couldn't even dress or be with the team (in the opener). We should have beaten Wesleyan. Now we're back!''

SGA'S DRIVER SHINES: How good is Southwest Georgia quarterback Dillon Driver?

Good enough to throw six touchdown passes in one game. That's what Driver did Friday night in a 47-38 win against Terrell Academy.

He might have had seven, but a penalty wiped out a 73-yard TD pass.

Driver finished with 296 yards. He completed 17 of 22 passes.

"I think he threw one bad pass all night,'' SGA coach David Bell said Saturday. "He is putting the ball right on the dime. I think his arm is stronger this year and he's more accurate.''

Kameron Whitaker has been Driver's favorite target all year, and that didn't change against TAE. Whitaker caught four TD passes for 110 yards.

SCA LOSES STAR, THEN FALLS TO BROOKWOOD: Sherwood Christian Academy might have beaten Brookwood on Friday, but the Eagles lost two of their top players in the game. Mack Green, who is a threat to score every time he touches the ball, left the game in the first quarter with a high ankle sprain, and SCA quarterback Brett Shepard suffered a head injury in the second quarter. Because of an earlier injury, SCA had to go with its third-string quarterback, and Brookwood took advantage, turning a 28-19 halftime lead into a 58-19 rout.

Sherwood had its moments early. Rashard Davis had a 70-yard kickoff return for a TD, and Derek Allen and Vashon Gaines had TD receptions before Shepard left the game.

"The injuries hurt,'' SCA coach Otis Covington said. "It kind of deflated us. When you (lose players like that) it kind of takes the air out of your sails.''

WESTWOOD'S NEW LEG: Westwood is rolling with two impressive wins to start the season, including Thursday's 64-18 romp against Tiftarea.

But one of the biggest surprises of the night came from the kicking game and freshman Brandon Pham, who came to the school this year. Pham, a soccer player, had never kicked a football before joining the team.

"He had never kicked a football before Monday before the game,'' Westwood coach Ross Worsham said. "And he went out there and made five extra points. He looked like he had been doing it all his life.''

LEE'S DEFENSE DOMINANT: Lee County's defense has given up zero points, 35 total yards and just four first downs through two games. Mind you, both those win were against smaller competition (GHSA Class A Baconton Charter, Class AA Crawford County), but the Trojans think this year's defense is much improved after giving up nearly 40 points a game in GHSA Region 1-AAAA last season.

Head coach Dean Fabrizio said last year's defense was underrated because of the fireworks his offense generated.

"We left the defense on the field more (last year)," Fabrizio said. "This year we're trying to be more efficient on offense. That certainly helps the defense."

The Herald No. 1 Trojans' defense has controlled the line of scrimmage in two games, thanks to a solid linebacking corps and its defensive linemen: Trey Crawford (fumble recovery in Friday's 36-0 win vs. Crawford County), William Butler (sack), Luke Early and Adam Flynn.

"(The defensive line) occupies the blocks so I can get through the hole," senior linebacker Thomas Wright said. "They make my job a whole lot easier."

Offensively, Lee County (2-0) may not stretch the field this season like they did last year with record-breaking quarterback Justin Walker and receivers Sanford Seay and James Terrell, but there's still plenty of talent.

Quarterback Matt Mears completed 10 of his first 15 passes in the first quarter Friday and finished 13-for-25 passing for 158 yards and four touchdowns. Andrew Stroud (two catches, 40 yards vs. Crawford) and Josh Cabrera (four catches, 52 yards) took short passes and turned them into long scores, but Mears also hit Brandon Paden on a perfectly thrown 15-yard fade route for a score.

Running back Kenneth Hurley, who has 166 yards and three TDs through two games, makes cuts better than the local barber shop and is dangerous in the Trojans' screen pass game.

"At times we played well offensively and at times we were really sloppy," Fabrizio said of the offense Friday. "We know we've got to improve in some areas before we get to region play. They're just young right now. We're still trying to find our footing at times."

RIVALRY GETS HEATED BETWEEN MILLER, EARLY: The rivalry between Miller County and Early County turned a little ugly in the fourth quarter of Friday night's game in Blakely when players from both teams got into a fight.

The altercation was short-lived, but it did bring coaches from both teams and law enforcement on the field to break things up.

It all started when an Early County offensive play broke down, resulting in a fumble near midfield. The fight for the ball turned into an actual fight between a handful of players.

Both teams were hit with offsetting personal fouls, and two players were ejected from the game. Neither sideline would comment on which players were ejected.

"With these two teams, it's a big rivalry," Miller County coach Frank Killingsworth said. "But you have to play under control and with discipline."

Early County Trey Woolf coach said his team avoided more penalties because his coaching staff had a plan in place for such an altercation. Half of the Early County coaching staff went to the field to attempt to break things up, and the other half made sure nobody from their sideline ran onto the field.

"There are certain things we need to remember when things like that happen, like sideline management," Woolf said. "The biggest thing you have to do to keep it from getting really bad, do the best you can to control the sideline. Because those kids can get thrown out if they get on the field."

Miller County recovered that fumble on the play prior to the fight and marched down the field for its first touchdown of the season. However, Early County held on for a 12-8 victory.

Herald staff writers Matt Stewart and John Millikan contributed to this report