It's ironic that the last time Bainbridge's Damien Bouie was handing the ball off to Mike Stubbs was earlier this year in this Sept. 14 file photo when Bouie, a running back, was forced under center because of an injury to the quarterback. Bouie shined that night, leading the Bearcats to a 14-12 win, and when the same situation occurred Friday against Lee County, Bouie did it again, only this time Stubbs scored the game-winning touchdown to lift The Herald No. 2 Bearcats past No. 1 Lee County, 49-42. (File photo)
BAINBRIDGE -- Mike Stubbs stretched his arms to the sky and pumped his first in the air, shouting "Thank You God!''
He meant it.
"Give it all to God,'' said Stubbs, who scored the winning touchdown late Friday night to lift Herald No. 2 Bainbridge past No. 1 Lee County, 49-42, in the wildest game of the season --- a game that must have felt heaven-sent to the Bearcats, who somehow found a way to regroup and win after Lee County staged a comeback for the ages.
In Stubbs' case, he got to play hero during the only time he touched the ball all night. In fact, Stubbs, who had an ankle injury, hadn't been in a game in three weeks, but there he was, standing in the right corner of the end zone after a 33-yard pitch-and-run that proved to be the difference in a showdown they will be talking about for years.
After it was finally over, and as Lee County coach Dean Fabrizio walked up to be interviewed by The Herald, the coach didn't wait to be asked a question. He just said: "Have you ever seen anything like that?''
Fabrizio's kids, who trailed, 28-0, early on and were still down, 42-7, with under a minute left in the first half, scored 35 inspiring points to knot things up at 42-42 with 8:59 left in the game. But the Bearcats, who had done almost nothing right in the second half, had one scoring drive left in them --- and they let Damian Bouie take over.
Bainbridge had to play without Herald Dynamite Dozen tailback Terry Lewis, who has gained 1,049 yards and scored a dozen touchdowns in nine games this season, but he sat out with a knee injury.
It didn’t matter.
The Bearcats had another case of dynamite waiting for Lee County.
And it was Bouie, who had moved from running back to quarterback earlier this season to bring some leadership to the position. He moved back to tailback Friday to take over Lewis' spot in Bainbridge's Veer offense, and he had a career night.
Bouie, who had gained 701 yards rushing before Friday night, ran for 262 yards on 26 carries, and scored three touchdowns Friday in a performance that won't soon be forgotten. in Bainbridge He ripped off a 41-yard TD run to lift Bainbridge to a 14-0 lead with 5:26 left in the first and raced 56 yards for a TD with 5:40 left in the half to give the Bearcats a 35-7 lead.
But he wasn't done.
Then he broke free for a 76-yard run with 3:06 left in the half to make it a 42-7 game. He went to halftime with 221 yards 14 carries.
But Lee County held him to only 19 yards in the second half --- that is, before Bainbridge's game-winning drive.
With all the momentum now in Lee County's huddle following its second-half comeback from 28 points down, Bainbridge coach Ed Pilcher put the ball in Bouie's hands for the biggest drive of the night. He put Bouie back in the quarterback spot, and Bouie just slashed his way on quarterback keepers from the Bainbridge 42 down to the Lee County 35. Tremain McCray pushed his way to the 33, and then Bouie darted right on another keeper, and when Lee's defense charged and closed to make a play, Bouie pitched the ball back to Stubbs, who went flying down the right sideline for the game winner.
"Bouie doesn't pitch the ball that well,'' Pilcher said later. "But dad-gum it, he pitched it great on that play.''
Pilcher said he knew Bouie would lead his team Friday.
"I said before the game, 'You're going to see a different running back tonight, you're going to see him run tonight like he has never run before,' " Pilcher said. "You could see it all week in practice. He hits the hole faster than anyone we've got.''
Stubbs summed up Bouie's night in three words: "He was awesome!''
Bouie said he knew the game was on his shoulders with Lewis out.
"I had to do it for my team, and I had to do it for Terry,'' Bouie said. "Our offensive line did a great job all night. When (Stubbs) scored the touchdown I was so happy. I was jumping up and down.''
Moments earlier, Stubbs said he was shaking on the sidelines, thinking Lee was going to win the game, and Bouie felt the same.
"I was nervous,'' Bouie said. "I was scared. I thought they were going to win.''
So did everyone from Leesburg. The Trojan fans were on their feet the entire second half watching quarterback Stephen Collier nearly pull off a miracle comeback.
"I thought we were going to do it,'' said Collier, who threw for 386 yards on 24 for 44 passing and five touchdowns, while he also ran for a touchdown and a two-point conversion that tied things at 42-42. "That was amazing, being down and scoring 35 unanswered points. It was nuts. Give props to Bainbridge. They are an awesome team, a team with a lot of talent.''
Collier was pretty awesome himself.
Lee was down, 21-0, before they could blink after the first quarter and then 28-0 with 8:42 left in the half, but the Trojans came back with two second-quarter TD passes from Collier, who threw a 38-yard TD pass to Dynamite Dozen tailback Kenneth Hurley with 6:02 left in half to cut the lead to 28-7, and then Collier hit J.Q. Quimbley with a 13-yard TD pass on a fourth down with four seconds left in the half to close to 42-14.
"That was a big play. We were down 42-7 with less than a minute in the half and came back like that. I am so proud of our kids,'' Fabrizio said. "We played about as bad as we can play in the first half and about as good as we can play in the second half. I'm so proud of these kids. They didn't quit.''
Collier soared after halftime.
On his second pass of the third quarter, Collier hit Hurley with a 50-yard TD pass with 9:23 left in the third to make it a 42-21 game, and then he came right back on the next series and hit Hurley with an 18-yard TD pass with 1:12 left in the third to cap off a 15-play, 87-yard drive. It was the longest drive of the year for the Trojans.
They weren't finished. The Trojans recovered a fumble at the Bainbridge 30 on the first play of the fourth quarter, and Collier hit Quimbley with a 27-yard pass to the 3-yard-line. Then Collier scored two plays later on a 1-yard run to close to 42-34. Lee gambled and went for two points, but the pass failed, and with 11:00 left, Bainbridge was clinging to a 42-34 lead.
On the next Bearcats series, the Trojans forced Bainbridge’s first punt of the night, and Casey Hightower, who was going to let the ball bounce dead, changed his mind at the last minute and grabbed it out of the air. Hightower weaved his way past two defenders and found daylight on the right sideline and raced all the way from his 38 to the Bainbridge 16. It took one play for Lee to score -- a 16-yard TD pass from Collier to Quimbly that made it 42-40 with 8:59 left. Collier (who else?) ran for the conversion and pushed his way into the end zone. Lee had just scored two touchdowns and 14 points in a span of 2:06, and all the momentum seemed to be with the Trojans.
That's when Pilcher put Bouie back under center for the winning drive.
"It was a tale of two halves,'' said Pilcher, whose team won the No. 3 seed in Region 1-AAAAA with the win and the Bearcats (7-3, 3-2 in region play) will now travel to face No. 2 seed Union Grove in the first round of the playoffs next week. Lee County finishes fourth in the region and travels to Region 4-AAAAA winner Whitewater next week.
The game also decided the top spot in The Herald's final Fab 5 poll, which comes out Tuesday: Bainbridge, No. 1. Lee County, No. 2.
"It feels great to be at the top of the poll, to be No. 1,'' Bouie said. "We have to keep it going in the playoffs next week.''
Bainbridge could use another fast start.
Lee drove to the Bainbridge 20 on its first drive, but Hunter Johnson missed a 38-yard field goal attempt, and then Bainbridge took over.
Cameron McDowell, who played quarterback, ran for a 45-yard TD to cap an 80-yard drive to get Bainbridge on the board, and the Bearcats got the ball right back on a Hurley fumble at the Lee 41 that was grabbed by Jamez Harris. It took one play -- a 41-yard sprint by Bouie --- to make it 14-0. Bainbridge forced another turnover minutes later when McDowell intercepted a pass to set up the Bearcats at the Lee 24-yard-line, and McCray scored two plays later on an 11-yard run. to make it 21-0.
But the game was, of course, a long way from being over. A very long way.