This week we finally got under the 50-day mark until the Bearcats kick off their 2014 regular season. Head Coach Jeff Littleton and the Bearcats are looking at a much different schedule in 2014 than they were in 2013 as the Bearcats have dropped down a classification from AAAAA to AAAA which is beneficial to the Cats for multiple reasons.
The Bearcats traveled an average of just a shade over 100 miles per road game in 2013 when they traveled to Cairo, College Park, Columbus, Dothan and Leesburg in the regular season. That average jumped up to 121 miles per road trip when you add in the playoff game against Ware County in Waycross. In 2014, the Bearcats will only travel an average of 60 miles per road trip and never truly leave Southwest Georgia, which is a huge advantage for the players and Bearcat fans.
When the Bearcats were in Region 1-AAAAA, the region was full of historically unfamiliar teams outside of Thomas County Central and Lee County. Hardaway, Harris County and Northside-Columbus were brand new opponents and too far away from Bainbridge to build any kind of competitive rivalry. The Bearcats have an 52-34 all-time record over the new opponents on the region slate (Crisp County, Americus-Sumter, Worth County, Dougherty & Westover).
Another new feature that the Bearcats get to take part in this season that I can’t remember them ever being a part of is a sub-divided region. the region coaches voted unanimously for the subdivision and they will be split up as follows: Sub-Region A will be the Albany Indians, Cairo Syrupmakers, Crisp County Cougars, Monroe Tornadoes and Thomas County Central Yellow Jackets while Sub-Region B will be the Americus-Sumter Panthers, Bainbridge Bearcats, Dougherty Trojans, Westover Patriots and Worth County Rams.
The schedule breaks down fairly nice for the Bearcats as they only have back-to-back road games once and it’s early in the season. The Cats open the regular season, as always, against the Early County Bobcats; this year in Blakely. The Bearcats earned their second shutout of the 2013 season against the Bobcats last year as they won the game 26-0 at Centennial Field. Week two will be the Bearcat home opener and you couldn’t ask for a better home opening opponent than the despised Cairo Syrupmakers. The Bearcats lost 6-0 to the ‘Makers in 2013 and even though Cairo is in the new Region 1-AAAA, this game does not count as a region game.
The following week at Centennial Field the Bearcats welcome the Monroe Tornadoes for the 2014 region opener. These two teams have played 18 times over the years but the last time they met was in Bainbridge in 1989 when the Bearcats won 3-0. Week four will be against Thomas County Central in Thomasville, the first leg of back-to-back road games. Last season the Yellow Jackets dropped 50 points on the Bearcats in Bainbridge, so I would imagine Bainbridge will be looking to get a little revenge in 2014. The second leg of back-to-back road games will be the longest road trip of the season for the Bearcats as they have to travel north to Cordele to take on Crisp County. The Bearcats are looking for their 5th straight victory over the Cougars with the last win being a 28-0 victory in 2005.
The month of October brings two home games, two road games and a bye week for the Bearcats. On October 3rd the Bearcats welcome Americus-Sumter to the friendly confines of Centennial Field for their first game against the Panthers since 2009 when the Bearcats won 14-6. Bainbridge will be looking for their 4th consecutive win over Americus-Sumter in 2014. The following week will be a road game against the Worth County Rams who the Bearcats have only played twice all-time (’82 & ’83) with an average margin of victory of 37-11. The Bearcats return to Centennial Field for their final regular season home game against Dougherty and this game will be the rubber match against the Trojans as the two teams are knotted up at 10 wins a piece all time. The Bearcats get a week off before traveling to Albany on Halloween night to take on the Westover Patriots and Mr. Trenton Thompson, the top high school recruit in Georgia, in the regular season finale at Hugh Mills Stadium. The last time these two teams played was in 2011 and it took three overtimes to decide a 23-20 Bearcat victory.
The Region 1-AAAA Championship Game will be the following Friday night (November 7th) at the home stadium of the team with the best region record. If it goes to a tiebreaker, typically home field goes to the team with the best record against all region opponents but we will cross that bridge if it presents itself.
All in all, it will be an extremely exciting football season for the Bearcats in 2014. This is the 2nd year under Head Coach Jeff Littleton and the second year is usually when the fruits of the first year labors are found. The schedule works out favorably for the Bearcats and being a classification lower never hurts. The toughest game on the schedule, as always, is Thomas County Central but the Yellow Jackets are on the other side of the subdivision which also works out well for the Cats. Get ready Bearcat fans, we might need to make some plans for a November 7th date with region rivals Cairo or Thomas County Central, which will be just fine with me.
You can hear every minute of Bearcat football action every Friday night on Live 101.9 and live streaming every Friday night on sowegalive.com