After the dramatic come from behind victory over Dutchtown last week, the road to the state championship does not get any easier for the Starr’s Mill Panthers as the Bainbridge Bearcats (8-3) from Region 1AAAAA are up next.
While Starr’s Mill and Bainbridge have never faced each other, Bainbridge has dominated Fayette teams in the playoffs in recent years. It all started in the 2003 season when they beat the Sandy Creek Patriots in Calvin Johnson’s last at the Battlefield in Tyrone and then in 2007 they beat the undefeated Fayette County Tigers in Fayetteville who were led by Brandon Boykin. They also got Sandy Creek again in 2015, this time at their place, and last year they traveled back up here to play Whitewater and won easily. Those long bus rides home have be jubilant for them.
The Bearcats are led by running back Dameon Pierce, a University of Florida commit.
“He is big, strong, and fast, exactly what you would expect from a running back that is going into the SEC,” said Starr’s Mill coach Chad Phillips.
Pierce is 5’11, 205 pounds and has a physical, downhill running style. After watching Dutchtown back Chris Joyce run through their defense last week, the prospects of facing someone on the same level for Coltin Houser and the Starr’s Mill defense can cause concern.
“They are good on defense too, so we have our work cut out for us this week to prepare,” said Phillips. “We need to especially focus on our kicking game.”
Starr’s Mill had some problems containing the Dutchtown return men, and Bainbridge will look to exploit that.
It’s a new opponent, but the same plan for the Panthers.
“Same as always. Run the ball for four yards, make first downs, and watch the clock run,” said Phillips. “For us, their running back is best when he is on the sidelines watching.”
The winner will have the pleasure of playing the Rome/Southwest Dekalb winner, it just gets tougher and tougher. Look for the Panthers to control the clock and score late to pull this one out. It would be nice for Bainbridge to leave Fayette County with a loss for a change.