BAINBRIDGE, GA (WALB) - For context on the Bainbridge football journey this fall, just do a quick helmet check.
Every golden dome is now battered with stripes. Stripes they've earned after being one of 9 teams to ever reach the GHSA state championship game after finishing the regular season without a winning record.
“When we lost 5 ballgames in the regular season, we felt like going into the playoffs we didn’t have much respect,” said head coach Jeff Littleton at Tuesday’s practice.
They do now. The Bearcats have won four playoff games, and three straight on the road as underdogs.
The last two wins at Buford and Stockbridge were sparked by game-breaking kick returns from sophomore Caleb McDowell, including this one off the lateral to give the Bearcats the lead with a minute and change to go.
“He’s a complete player, special teams, offense, defense. He’s just a competitor,” said Littleton.
“Man he’s crazy, I love blocking for somebody that can make me look good,” said senior offensive lineman Jacob McLaughlin.
Next up is Warner Robins at Mercedes Benz Stadium.
Their 38-0 loss to the region champs during the regular season doesn’t tell the full story.
“I don’t think we expected to win that game. I don’t think we felt like we could. I don’t think the players felt we could,” admitted Littleton.
It was the week following Hurricane Michael which devastated the community, and displaced several players.
“The Warner Robins game, it was hard on us. But we came back the last two and got a lot of confidence going into the postseason,” said McLaughlin.
To win they'll need to stop quarterback Dylan Fromm, little brother of UGA's Jake Fromm.
He’s got 40 touchdowns, and has a shot to surpass 4,000 yards in the state title game.
“The passing game it’s a big part of their offense, and defensively we can manage that into a smaller package," said senior defensive back Randy Fillingame.
Bainbridge will look to swap their battered helmets, for the golden crown...a 5A state championship.
“We can’t be satisfied with just making it, we’ve got to actually win it,” said Fillingame.
The Cardiac Bearcats, one more upset from history.
Kickoff is at 4:30 on Tuesday at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta.