We have finally arrived at the sought-after destination for the 2018 prep football season -- the finals, which will be held Dec. 11-12 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
The irony of the eight-game, two-day slate is that three of the title games will feature teams from the same region.
In Class A Public, it’s Irwin County (13-0) against Clinch County (12-1). In Class 5A, Bainbridge (9-5) meets Warner Robins (12-2). In Class 6A, defending champion Lee County (14-0) takes on region foe Northside Warner-Robins (9-5) for another shot at the title.
Other matchups have Colquitt County (14-0) taking on Milton (12-2) in Class 7A, Blessed Trinity (14-0) taking on unbeaten Cartersville (14-0) in Class 4A, Peach County (13-1) meeting Cedar Grove (13-1) in 3A and Rockmart (14-0) playing Heard County (12-2) for all the marbles in Class 2A.
The Class A Private showdown is between unbeaten Athens Academy (13-0) and Eagles Landing Christian Academy (12-1). These two powers met a year ago in Mercedes-Benz, with ELCA winning the title, 41-3.
One of the most interesting points about this year’s finals is that there are two teams with 9-5 records contending for a title. Northside Warner Robins and Bainbridge have had great playoff runs into next week’s finals.
The Northside Eagles of Coach Kevin Kinsler have won five games in a row and will try to avenge a regular-season, 24-7 loss to Lee County in the 6A finals. The Bainbridge Bearcats of Jeff Littleton are on a six-game winning streak and will try to take down Warner Robins, a 38-0 winner in their first meeting this year.
The Bearcats have had an up and down season, winning their first two games over Seminole County and Cairo, then losing four straight to Lincoln of Tallahassee, Tift County, Brooks County and Crisp County. A key 27-14 win over Veterans gave Littleton a glimmer of hope, but then came the loss to Warner Robins, 38-0 and a 3-5 record.
“We played a tough schedule Make no mistake about that,” said Littleton. “All four of our losses were to really good football teams. We had some early season injuries and we were starting several sophomores at key positions. It all came together at the right time.” Six games later, the Bearcats are now playing for a state title.
The winning streak started with key region wins over Harris County and Thomas County Central and gave the Bearcats a second-place region finish at 3-1. In the opening round of the playoffs, they took down Jones County 40-13, and followed that with a win over unbeaten Wayne County, 26-19. Then came a stunning 23-20, win at Buford and last week’s 20-19, win at Stockbridge that came on a 60-yard touchdown return of a squib kick, with the game winner coming with less than two minutes to play.
How would Littleton describe this amazing six- game run to the title game?
“In a word…determination. We are not a veteran football team, but we do have great senior leadership and our young players have grown up.”
A Tennessee commit, Roman Harrison, a 6-foot-3, 235-pound linebacker, anchors the Bearcat defense.
The long-awaited rematch between region foes Bainbridge and Warner Robins kicks off on Dec. 11 at 4:30 p.m. on GPB