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Cardiac Cats prevail

Bainbridge all-purpose star Damian Bouie (20) was forced to move under center Friday night when The Herald No. 2 Bearcats invaded Blakely to take on The Herald No. 4 Bobcats — and Bouie shined. Seen here handing the ball off to running back Michael Stubbs, Bouie threw, ran and willed Bainbridge past Early County, 14-12, thanks to a goal-line stand on a two-point conversion at the end of the game.

Bainbridge all-purpose star Damian Bouie (20) was forced to move under center Friday night when The Herald No. 2 Bearcats invaded Blakely to take on The Herald No. 4 Bobcats — and Bouie shined. Seen here handing the ball off to running back Michael Stubbs, Bouie threw, ran and willed Bainbridge past Early County, 14-12, thanks to a goal-line stand on a two-point conversion at the end of the game.

BLAKELY — Bainbridge head coach Ed Pilcher felt like he had beaten Superman on Friday.

The Bearcats never really found the kryptonite for Early County’s Jacori Taylor, but they did find enough defensive gumption at the end to hold off the Bobcats, 14-12, with a 2-point conversion stop with 30 seconds to play.

Pilcher, whose Herald No. 2-ranked Bearcats have beaten Early five straight years in multiple close games, called it a “dadgum knock-down, drag-out” game after it was over. Taylor, who threw for 179 yards and ran for 130 in the loss, did most of the knocking and dragging, and Pilcher was convinced the Bobcats’ senior quarterback had something concealed underneath his jersey.

“I’m sure before the game that sucker went in the phone booth to dadgum change,” Pilcher said of Taylor, who scored on a 17-yard touchdown run with 31 seconds to play to set up the failed 2-point conversion that would have tied it. “He’s got a big ol’ S (on his chest).”

Early (2-1) drove 52 yards in the final 2:32 and Taylor scored on a quarterback scramble on third-and-12 before the 2-point pitch went to Ladonis Bryant on a sweep. Bryant had the option to throw or pass, but after failing on a running back pass at the Bainbridge 2-yard line on fourth-and-goal earlier in the fourth quarter, he opted to run for the corner.

Bainbridge’s B.J. Cheatem and George Clemmons were waiting to cut him down at the goal line, and the Bearcats left Blakely with another tight win.

If there was any question whether this non-region game meant anything, Early County head coach Trey Woolf made it abundantly clear.

“We’re devastated,” Woolf said. “We really thought we were there. We’ve got to figure out how to win some close games.”

The Bobcats controlled the game early and led 6-0 after Martavius Allen snagged a one-handed slant over the middle from Taylor, a Herald Dynamite Dozen selection, and screamed down the field for a 79-yard score with 5:00 left in the first quarter.

Bainbridge (2-1) answered with back-to-back scoring drives late in the second quarter after Damian Bouie entered at quarterback to run Pilcher’s veer. Herald Dynamite Dozen selection Terry Lewis broke the longest run of the game with a 37-yard scoring run at the 3:26 mark in the second quarter and then Bouie scored on a 5-yard run with 26 seconds left before half.

It was Bouie’s first action at quarterback ever in a game and the senior handled the change of scenery from backfield to under center admirably.

“(Coach) told me I was going to play (QB), but I didn’t know for sure,” Bouie said. “I did pretty good.”

Taylor ran for 86 yards in the second half and finished the game 10 of 20 passing with one interception and ran for 130 yards on 19 carries. Bryant caught four passes for 61 yards in the loss.

“They are a talented bunch,” Pilcher said of Early County, which has lost to the Bearcats three straight years by a total of seven points or less. “They’ve got the whole package.”

Lewis led Bainbridge with 82 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown. Bouie finished with 41 yards on 11 carries and score.

Early County’s defense held the Bearcats to 35 yards in the second half and the Bobcats outgained Bainbridge, 355-174, but still came out alive.

Early County next goes to Calhoun County on Friday, while Bainbridge plays host to Westlake.