A pair of 13-0 juggernauts will meet Friday night (Dec. 4, 7:30pm) in Cartersville High School’s Weinman Stadium as the Bainbridge Bearcats arrive to challenge the Purple Hurricanes in the 2015 Class AAAA semifinals.
At stake, a trip to The Georgia Dome in Atlanta and a spot in the Class AAAA state championship game Saturday, Dec. 12 at 4:30pm.
The Canes dispatched Jonesboro 38-14 in the quarterfinals while the Bearcats rallied with a pair of fourth quarter rushing touchdowns by Dameon Pierce to slip past visiting St. Pius X, 18-17.
Pierce finished the night with 216 yards rushing on 23 carries and scored the two touchdowns on back-to-back Bearcats’ possessions. His game-winner came with only 1:44 remaining, but it was his 72-yard touchdown scamper earlier in the fourth quarter with his team trailing 17-6 that surged momentum in the Bearcats’ direction.
St. Pius (10-3) controlled the time of possession and had the ball for almost 30 of the game’s 48 minutes, but Bainbridge was able to overcome that deficit when the Golden Lions missed wide left on a 59-yard field goal attempt with only seven second remaining.
The Golden Lions took a 10-6 lead at halftime on a Nkem Njoku blocked punt that he returned 35 yards. The blocked punt occurred following Bainbridge’s initial possession of the game. St. Pius added a 33-yard field goal by Nick Jones before the intermission. Njoku scored the other St. Pius touchdown on a three-yard run at the beginning of the fourth quarter that built the Lions’ 17-6 lead.
Bainbridge quarterback, Brett McLaughlin, scored for the Bearcats on a one-yard run in the first quarter, but the PAT kick failed.
McLaughlin was 8-of-16 through the air for 73 yards as Bainbridge stayed a perfect 13-0 for the first time in school history.
The Bearcats failed on two-point conversion pass attempts on both fourth quarter scores.
Bainbridge head coach Jeff Littleton, who is now 24-11 in three seasons, said his team stayed with their plan down the stretch.
“Our staff and kids trusted each other to do the job,” said Littleton. “Everybody believes in what we’re doing. We expect to win. We never give up.”
Under Littleton, the Bearcats have been in the state playoffs all three years but exited with first round losses to Ware County in 2013 and West Laurens in 2014.
This season Bainbridge cruised through the regular season and sub-region 1-AAAA-B. Their two closest games were both against rival Cairo. The Bearcats beat the Syrupmakers 21-7 September 4 and defeated them again November 6 in the Region 1-AAAA championship game, 14-6.
Bainbridge had an easy state playoffs opening round win over Griffin, 35-7, but has been in a pair of nail-biters the last two weeks. The Bearcats edged Sandy Creek 14-7 in overtime in the second round along with the come-from-behind victory over St. Pius X in the quarterfinals.
All three playoff victories have been at home for the Bearcats. The matchup with the Hurricanes will be Bainbridge's first road game since their region championship win at Cairo. It is also the first appearance in the state semifinals for Bainbridge since 1993.
Cartersville is in the Final Four for the ninth time in the past 27 years. It is also the third time the Hurricanes have won their first 13 games, a feat also accomplished in 1999 and 2012.