A stout, opportunistic defense and a big-play offense were too much for Northwest Whitfield High School to handle Friday night.
On the road at Bainbridge, the Bruins fell 48-7 in the second round of the Class 4A state playoffs. Bainbridge, the Region 1-4A champion, advanced to play North Oconee in the state quarterfinals next weekend. Northwest ends the season at 8-4.
"They are really well coached athletes, but I thought our guys fought until the very end, which is what our season has been defined by, and I'm just really proud of our guys," Northwest coach Josh Robinson said.
Playing about five hours from Tunnel Hill in the southwest corner of Georgia, Northwest stymied the Bainbridge (9-3) offense on some early drives, but the Bearcats broke through, got some help from an aggressive defense, and never looked back.
Jax Brooker jumped on a Bainbridge fumble to end the first Bearcat drive, and the Bruin defense forced a fourth-and-8 on another. The big-play Bearcats converted that fourth down into a 35-yard touchdown pass to make the game 6-0 with 2:55 left in the first quarter.
The Bruins moved the ball on the ensuing drive, but Bainbridge's Antavious Murphy jumped in front of an Owen Brooker pass and took it 58 yards for a touchdown, putting the score at 13-0. It was the first of two pick sixes by the Bainbridge defense against Brooker on the night. The star junior quarterback had thrown just five interceptions in the season's previous 11 games but had to rely on his arm a lot Friday because of the Bruins' growing deficit.
Another Bruin giveaway, this time coming when Brooker was stuffed on fourth-and-short, led to another Bainbridge touchdown on the very next play. Quarterback Bo Smith hit Deyon Bouie for a 45-yard touchdown, the first of three touchdowns on the night for Bouie, a Texas A&M commit.
Keenan Phillips rushed in for a 10-yard touchdown to put Northwest in a 27-0 hole midway through the second.
A usually-potent Northwest offense then looked like its regular self for a drive against the stingy Bainbridge offense. Brooker hit Hudson Gray for a 44-yard catch and run to the 18, and Brooker rolled out, pump faked and found Ray Morrison for a 12-yard touchdown two plays later.
Brooker finished 20-for-38 with 213 yards, a touchdown and the two interceptions. Gray caught four passes for 94 yards for Northwest.
The second Smith-to-Bouie touchdown combination came from 18 yards out and with just 10 seconds remaining in the half, and Northwest trailed 34-7 at the break.
Phillips added another rushing score in the third quarter, and Bouie provided the punctuation late in the third.
He ended a deep Northwest drive by picking off Brooker and sprinting 90 yards for a score, waving to the Northwest sideline and drawing an unsportsmanlike penalty on his way.
The fourth quarter was played with a running clock.
Northwest recovered from a 1-2 start to finish the regular season at 7-3 and earn the Bruins' seventh straight playoff appearance with a second-place finish in Region 7-4A. The Bruins reached the second round of the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time in program history and were searching for the team's first trip into the quarterfinals.
"We came back from a bad start and made it to the second round against a great football team," Robinson said.