Bainbridge RB Terry Lewis busts through the Westover line Friday night en route to 255 yards rushing. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ALBANY -- The best, the absolute best.
That's how good this felt to Bainbridge, how sweet and golden and memorable this three overtime, 23-20, win against Westover felt.
"I've never had a better feeling in my life,'' said Bainbridge kicker Daniel Provence, whose 23-yard field goal in the third OT lifted Herald No. 4 Bainbridge to the win.
They were shouting so loud you could probably hear them back in Bainbridge, 60 miles from Hugh Mills Stadium, where nobody went home early.
"When he made that field goal I shouted, 'Yes!' And I shouted it loud,'' said Bainbridge running back Terry Lewis, who had a monster night, gaining 255 yards on 32 carries and scoring both of Bainbridge's touchdowns.
There was silence for Westover.
Silence and tears.
"It hurts,'' said Westover linebacker Don Mills, who made more than a dozen tackles, including four in the backfield. "It hurts a lot. We never want this feeling again. I promise we will come back from this. We will come back next week and play even harder.''
That's difficult to imagine.
"We played with our hearts,'' Mills said. "It hurts to lose in three overtimes, but it shows that we are never going to give up.''
It shows that and more. Westover was down, 14-0, late in the third quarter when the Patriots came back with two highlight-reel plays. First Josh Burton scooped up a fumble and ran it back for a 35-yard TD with 4:52 left I the third. The extra point failed, but Westover came back to knot things when T.J. Wester hit a wide open Octerius Jackson for a 70-yard TD with 7:03 left in the game, and Dalviness Greene ran it in to add the two points needed to knot the score at 14-14.
"They could have folded their tent when they were down 14-0,'' said Bainbridge coach Ed Pilcher, whose Herald No. 4-ranked Bearcats improved to 3-0. "But they battled back. They hung tough. Both teams played hard. No doubt about that.''
Lewis gave Bainbridge the edge all night, pounding inside for tough yards and then breaking free and breaking Westover's back with two huge runs. His 73-yard bolt with 10:26 left in the half gave Bainbridge the lead, and his 43-yard run early in the third quarter seemed to give the Bearcats all they would need, especially when Provence nailed both extra points.
Bainbridge's defense, led by linebackers B.J. Cheatem, Jamez Harris and Marshall Mack, swarmed all night and tried to smother Greene. They must have had Greene's picture with them on the long bus trip to Albany, because wherever Greene went, the Bearcats followed.
Still, Greene, who had gained 476 yards in the first two games of the season, finished the night with 108 yards on 27 carries, but his two biggest moments came on short runs. The two-point conversion couldn't have been bigger at the time, and he scored on 2-yard run a fourth-and-goal play in the first overtime to keep Westover alive at 20-20.
Bainbridge QB Quincy Fortsen, who gained 96 yards on 16 carries scored on a 3-yard run to give Bainbridge the 20-14 lead in OT, but the snap on the extra point sailed high above Provence, who was so frustrated he slammed the ball down after he was tackled. The penalty gave Westover the ball at the 8 to start their first OT bid, and the Pats could have won it 21-20 with an extra point, but the hold was bad on the extra point, and JV kicker Tanner Stumpe didn't catch the ball on his kick.
Neither team scored in the second OT. The Bearcats held the Pats, forcing a fourth-and-20 from the 25, and Wester's pass sailed wide. The Pats then held Bainbridge when -- after a delay of game penalty on fourth down backed the ball up five yards -- Provence missed a 28-yard field goal, to send the game into its third OT.
Pilcher had no problem sending Provence, who made two 43-yard field goals, a 37-yarder and a 28-yarder in the first two games, back out there to win it.
"I knew he was going to make it,'' Pilcher said.
Provence knew he had to make it.
"When I went out there to win it, I was thinking about that unsportsmanlike conduct penalty I got,'' Provence said. "And I was hanging my head after the missed field goal. I knew if I made (the 23-yard game winner) that it would take a lot off my shoulders.''
Then he made it.
Westover had one last chance, but Mack sacked Wester twice, and on fourth and 21, Wester's final pass sailed long in the end zone to finally end it.
Provence's kick also lifted some weight off Bainbridge's offense, which fumbled the ball eight times, losing six of them. Westover also had an interception.
"We made enough turnovers to last us a month,'' Pilcher said.
And Westover just didn't go away.
"I think we earned some respect (Friday night),'' Mills said.
"They're crying, and they're hurt,'' said Westover coach Octavia Jones of his team. "And that's good. Before they wouldn't have cared this much. I'm glad to see they cared. I knew this game would show what kind of character this team had, and it did. Big things are going to happen for this football team this year.''