Terry Lewis came up from the JV and into a starting role as Bainbridge's feature back in the veer offense. Bainbridge is off to a 2-0 start thanks to Lewis, who has scored all three of his team's touchdowns while amassing 190 yards. He and the Bearcats head into a showdown with Westover's defense -- which has allowed a total of 14 points all season -- in The Herald's Game of the Week.
ALBANY -- This is the game Westover has been looking for, the one the Patriots have been pointing to for a while.
Sure, it's a non-region game for the Class AAA Patriots and it's against a Class AAAA school, but when Westover meets Bainbridge at 7:30 p.m. today at Hugh Mills Stadium in The Herald's Game of the Week, Westover won't just be playing to stay perfect.
"We're looking at this game like it's a playoff game,'' said Westover coach Octavia Jones, whose team is off to a 2-0 start. "We want to add to the foundation of building the program, and a win against a program like Bainbridge, a perennial power, would show that our program has improved by leaps and bounds.''
A win against Bainbridge should catapult Westover into the state's Top 10 poll, because Bainbridge just beat state-ranked Cairo. Do the math.
Westover, which has had only four winning seasons in its history, is off to a perfect start and looking for a big season, and the Patriots, ranked No. 2 in The Herald Fab 5 poll, have beaten two teams that were ranked in The Herald's Fab 5. Now they face No. 4 Bainbridge, which had a ton of questions of its own coming out of the preseason.
Both teams are unbeaten at 2-0, and Bainbridge is coming off an emotional, 17-14, win against the Syrupmakers -- its biggest rival. What made the win even sweeter was the fact that both former Bainbridge quarterback Steven Bench and his father, Steve Bench Sr., who was the Bainbridge offensive line coach, left Bainbridge after spring practice to go to Cairo.
But the Bearcats have bounced back from that -- and more -- and Ed Pilcher's veer offense is rolling along with a defense that has carried the team for the past two seasons.
In fact, both defenses have been spectacular so far this year.
Bainbridge has allowed just 26 points in two games and held Cairo, which was ranked No. 5 in the Class AAA state poll, to only 14 points and a total of 138 yards.
Want To Go, Listen or Follow Online?
WHO: Herald No. 4 Bainbridge (2-0) at No. 2 Westover (2-0).
WHAT: Early class of Class AAAA and AAA unbeatens.
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. today.
WHERE: Albany, Hugh Mills Stadium.
LIVE UPDATES: Log on and follow the game at: twitter.com/AlbHeraldSports
Westover's defense has been as good (or better) as any in Southwest Georgia. The Patriots gave up a 53-yard catch-and-run touchdown pass on the fourth play of the season against Mitchell County, and haven't given up anything since. Mitchell was held to just seven points and 205 yards of offense in the opener, and Albany High's only points came on a 74-yard kickoff return. Westover racked up 10 sacks against Albany High last week, and held the Indians to only 97 total yards in a 13-7 victory.
It could be a long night for both offenses.
"I'll take a 2-0 win,'' Jones said. "I can't say enough about their defense. It may be one of the best defenses we play all year. But I feel like the way our offense is rolling right now that we can find a way to move the ball.''
The Pats do most of the moving with a talented offensive line and a running back who is off to what may be the best start in Westover history.
Dalviness Greene has gained 476 yards in two games, including a 274-yard night last week against Albany High.
"I don't think there has ever been a running back at Westover have back-to-back 200-yard games,'' Jones said. "If you would have told me this summer that he would have back-to-back 200-yard games and have 476 yards after two games, I would have given you a funny look.''
There's nothing funny about Greene's ability to run the football. He's tough and smart, and takes advantage of everything his offensive line gives him -- and his line has been blowing people off the ball so far.
"That (guy Greene) No. 6 can go,'' Pilcher said. "He's a workhorse, and they have a huge offensive line. They're pretty dad-gum big. They're very impressive running at folks. They just run it down their throats. They're real big. I don't know if we can match up."
"Albany couldn't slow them down in the second half. They just wore them out -- just hammered them and hammered them. No. 6 carried the ball all but about three times.''
But Bainbridge is talented everywhere you look, and almost shut out Westover last year in a 35-15 win at Bainbridge. The Patriots didn't score until the final minutes of the game.
The Bearcats controlled last year's game the same way the try to control every game: with the veer offense.
"We don't see it, and even the teams that do run it, nobody runs it as effectively as coach Pilcher runs it,'' Jones said. "He won five state championships with the veer at Thomas County Central, and he's made it effective everywhere he is.''
And it's difficult to prepare for the veer.
"It's hard for our scout team to simulate the speed they run the veer,'' Jones said. "Even if you stop it, they keep running it because they feel they can pop one open. It's like Novocaine -- eventually, it's going to work.''
Still, Jones and his kids like the challenge.
"We want to be a defense that's hard to run against,'' Jones said. "If you want to show people how good your defense is you have to show them you can stop the run.''
Pilcher knows he needs to get his kids to come back strong after last week's emotional win.
"That's what we've been preaching all week,'' Pilcher said. "You've got to play with that intensity every week or you're going to get beat. We've got to get up there and play. We know what they're going to do. We've just got to stop it.''
Westover is in the same situation. The Patriots know Bainbridge is going to run the ball most of the night. The Bearcats have their own big-time back in Terry Lewis, who was so impressive on the JV team last year that Pilcher called him up to the varsity for the final four games a year ago. Lewis made an immediate impact, and he has already gained 190 yards in two games and he has scored all three of Bainbridge's touchdowns.
But there are other weapons, as well.
Sophomore kicker Daniel Provence has made two 43-yard field goals and also hit from 37 and 28 yards out. In a close defensive game, Provence could be the difference.
"It's a big game for both of us,'' Pilcher said. "It will probably come down to the trenches.''
Jones said the same thing. He believes his team can win this one right up front, on both lines.
"We'll find out about the character of our team (tonight),'' Jones said. "We've been preaching about getting respect, and for us to get it you have to beat a team like Bainbridge. Nobody is going to give it to you until you beat a team like Bainbridge, a team that is respected around the state.''