Bainbridge football coach Ed Pilcher moved his playmakers to different positions Friday night against Lee County, and it worked in the 49-42 victory.
Seminole coach Ingram: Region 1-A championship ‘came out of nowhere’
CAMILLA — Alan Ingram was expecting the Gatorade bath after his Seminole County football team beat Mitchell County on Friday for the Region 1-A title.
It was the Indians’ sensational season that the head coach never saw coming.
“This one just came out of nowhere,” said Ingram, who has now won back-to-back region titles. “I thought going into this that we would win three or four ball games. This is a bunch of kids without a whole lot of athletic ability, but they learned how to play the game.”
They learned, and they prospered.
And they capped a perfect region season with a 34-12 victory on Friday to secure a spot in the Class A playoffs.
He successfully dodged his players’ attempt to dump the cooler of Gatorade on him, but his players caught up with him minutes later for a moment he will never forget.
“I had four or five come up to me after the game and say, ‘Coach, I love you,’ “ Ingram said. “For 15-18 year old kids to say that, that’s tough. Walking up to a man and saying, ‘I love you’ doesn’t happen every day. It means a lot.”
The region title meant the world to Ingram, too.
“Last year I felt like we would win the thing from the onset,” said Ingram, whose 2011 Indians rolled to a region title with a senior-laden team. “This year we were celebrating and hugging each other. Just knowing what could have happened, we could have won two ball games. We got stronger and stronger every week.”
All it took was a glance to his assistant coaches after the final buzzer sounded to know the feeling was mutual.
“We just stopped and looked at each other and went, ‘Wow, these crazy kids,’ “ Ingram said.
No one gave Seminole much of a chance this season after stars Chris Brown and Dee Virgin graduated, but those low expectations only motivated the youthful Indians.
“It was motivation to keep pushing it and keep going forward. We depended on each other,” Seminole County senior running back Daquan Hamlet said. “There were some expectations (from others) that we wouldn’t be good, but we proved them wrong. We showed them who the champions are. I’m proud of my team.”
BAINBRIDGE — If anyone is going into the playoffs with momentum, it’s Bainbridge’s Bearcats, who survived one of the wildest shootouts in recent memory on Friday night, beating Lee County, 49-42, after Lee had stormed back from a 42-7 deficit to knot the score (and everyone’s stomach) at 42-42 with 8:59 left in the game.
Bainbridge did it without its leading running back, Herald Dynamite Dozen tailback Terry Lewis, who sat out with a knee injury.
“We thought about playing him,’’ Bainbridge coach Ed Pilcher said. “But we held him out, because we didn’t want to take the chance of not having him for the playoffs. We’re hoping he can be ready next week.’’
Bainbridge won the No. 3 seed in Region 1-AAAA with the win against Lee and travels to Union Grove, which was the No. 2 team in Region 4-AAAAA.
Pilcher might want to carry a Rubik’s Cube with him to the playoffs. He coached Friday’s game like he was working on one, moving players from here to there and back again to find a combination to beat the Trojans.
He not only shifted some linemen, but his biggest move was taking Damian Bouie and moving him from quarterback to tailback to fill in Lewis’ spot in the Veer, and then putting Cameron McDowell in the quarterback spot.
Pilcher said he knew before the game that Bouie would have a big game, and the senior had a career night, gaining 262 yards and scoring three touchdowns. He had rushed for 701 yards in the first nine games, and went to halftime with almost a third of that with 221 yards and all three TDs. His third touchdown run lifted Bainbridge to a 42-7 lead.
But it was a move that proved to be almost as big was putting McDowell at quarterback.
“He really doesn’t like to play quarterback,’’ Pilcher said. “But we had to have him there, and he had a really good game for us.”
McDowell, who starts in the secondary, had a huge night. He scored twice and got the Bearcats on the board early when he broke free for a 45-yard TD run to cap an 80-yard drive. He also set up Bainbridge’s third TD of the night when he intercepted a pass and returned it 27 yards to the Lee 24-yard-line. He also broke up a pass in the end zone in the second quarter and caught a pass from Preston Norris, who entered the game at quarterback when Bainbridge had to pass as yet another Rubik’s Cube move by Pilcher.
“I had no choice,’’ McDowell said about playing quarterback. “I did it for my team.’’
He finished the night with 94 yards on 14 carries and was a big part of the victory — like it or not.
To finish the ultimate Rubik’s Cube plan for Bainbridge, Pilcher used running back Mike Stubbs for one play in the game. Stubbs hadn’t played in three weeks because of an ankle injury, but on Bainbridge’s winning drive, Pilcher inserted Stubbs, who took a pitchout from Bouie on an option play and raced 33 yards for the winning touchdown.
“I was on the sideline shaking because it so cold, and shaking because I thought (Lee County) was going to come back and win the game,” Stubbs said. “When he put me in the game I was just thinking about one thing: ‘execute,’ I just had to execute. I knew I had to go hard.’’
Stubbs did as the final piece of the cube — a perfect fit.
STILL A BLUR: It was a long ride back home from Bainbridge for Lee County on Friday night, and when the Trojans made it home, coach Dean Fabrizio talked to them about the wild and crazy game they almost won.
“I just told them how proud I was of them,’’ Fabrizio said. “It was a long ride back and we got in pretty late, and then we met at 8 on Saturday morning to watch the film of the game. That first half was a nightmare, and the second half was a heck of a comeback. They did a heck of a job digging deep and coming back. I’m really proud of them.’’
It may take a while to get over a game people will be talking about for years.
Fabrizio said on Saturday afternoon that, “It’s a blur.’’
The comeback was inspiring. With under a minute left in the half, Lee trailed 42-7 and then ripped off five consecutive touchdowns and 35 points to forge a 42-42 tie.
“It was nuts,’’ Lee quarterback Stephen Collier said after the game. “It’s amazing how we came together as a unit and scored 35 unanswered points, amazing.’’
Collier drove Bainbridge a little nuts. He led the comeback and had the best night of any quarterback in Southwest Georgia this season, throwing for 386 yards and five touchdowns. He also ran for a touchdown and ran in a two-point conversion that knotted the score at 42-42 with 8:59 left.
Dynamite Dozen tailback Kenneth Hurley rushed for 45 yards, but had a career-night catching the ball. Hurley finished the night with 10 receptions for 212 yards, and caught three TD passes — a 50-yarder, a 38-yarder and an 18-yarder.
J.Q. Quimbley, a sophomore, caught six passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns, including a 16-yard TD catch that closed the gap to 42-40.
Lee flipped the game upside down after halftime, which ended on a play that gave Lee momentum going into the locker room, despite being down 42-14. In the closing minutes, Collier drove the Trojans to the Bainbridge 13 and had time for one last play. And on fourth down, he found Quimbley with a TD pass with 0:04 left. The Trojans took that momentum and grabbed a fumble to start the second half, and two plays later, Collier hit Hurley for the 50-yard catch-and-run TD that seemed to ignite Lee County.
Fabrizio’s halftime speech was all about making history.
“I told them that as bad as it was that we had the opportunity to have the greatest comeback in school history,’’ Fabrizio said. “I told them that I just wanted us to play hard.’’
It was still tough talking about the loss, even on Saturday. Fabrizio stopped and started again, remembering how his team stormed back.
“That was something,’’ he said. “That was something.’’
Lee County did set a school record, scoring 450 points in the 10-game regular season, eclipsing the 438 yards the 2005 Trojans put up in the best season Lee has ever seen. Fabrizio’s kids also finished the season as the No. 1 scoring Class AAAAA team in Georgia, averaging 45 points a game.
That’s what the Trojans will take into the playoffs next week when they travel to face Whitewater, the No. 1 seed from Region 4-AAAAA. The Trojans (7-3) have made the playoffs two of the last three seasons, but this year’s team could have been undefeated. Lee lost a three games by a total of 17 points.
“When we left Bainbridge we had the feeling we’ve had all year,” Fabrizio said. “We have either walked off the field after winning big or feeling like we should have won. We feel that when we play well and play hard that we can play with anybody.’’
That’s what Lee County is taking into the playoffs.
SNEAK PEAK: Monroe knows a little about their first round opponent, Class AAAA No. 6 Griffin, already. Even with one game to go Friday — which ended in a 31-21 win over Worth County — Tornadoes coaches took a look at Griffin (9-1) in anticipation of Friday’s playoff matchup.
“We peaked a little bit at them,” Monroe head coach Charles Truitt said. “They’ve got some athletes. That’s a good team that throws the ball around a lot, so we’re going to have to be ready for them.”
Griffin is the No. 2 seed from Region 4-AAAA, its lone blemish a 17-14 loss to Class AAAA No. 5 Stockbridge. Monroe (7-3) is the No. 3 seed from Region 1-AAAA.
If Monroe is going to pull off the upset at Griffin, they’ll need to continue to keep quarterback Charles Stafford upright, which it has done lately. Stafford was sacked just once Friday against Worth, the first sack in four weeks that Monroe has allowed.
“The offensive line has been doing a good job,” Truitt said. “You give (Stafford) time to throw, he’ll pick you apart.”
Stafford threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns against the Rams (4-6), who enter the playoffs as the No. 4 seed from Region 1-AAAA and go to Stockbridge (9-1) Friday in the first round of the GHSA Class AAAA playoffs. Stockbridge is the top seed from Region 4-AAAA.
Worth forced one turnover Friday and turned it over three times and has had trouble with takeaways this season, a trend the Rams will need to reverse if they hope to have any shot in the playoffs.
“Nobody gives us the ball,” Worth head coach Scotty Ward said. “Nobody gives us turnovers. We don’t get them ever.”
The Rams, normally regarded as a run-first power team, threw the ball more than 30 times in Friday’s loss to Monroe after seeing their run game shut down. They may have found a new weapon in receiver Deen Worley, who caught three touchdowns to go along with more than 100 receiving yards.
“We may need to throw the ball,” Ward said. “It’s not what we do, but with Lavonte (Robinson) and Deen out there, we’ve got some (playmakers).”