Jeff Hurndon Photography / Derrick Craine of Union Grove tries to break free from a Bainbridge defender in the second half of the Wolverines’ first round Class AAAAA playoff win on Friday in McDonough.
McDONOUGH — Determination, thy name is Derrick Craine.
Union Grove’s senior running back was punishing, relentless, and determined as he willed his Wolverines to a 21-14, first-round win over the Bainbridge Bearcats (7-4) in a Class AAAAA playoff game Friday at Union Grove. Craine logged 37 carries for 211 yards and all three Wolverine touchdowns, and even led the Union Grove defense with eight tackles.
Union Grove (10-1), now on an eight-game winning streak, will travel to meet Ware County in the second round.
“Obviously, it’s huge for the program,” Union Grove coach Paul Burgdorf said. “It’s kind of hard to put into words. It’s huge. It validates how we’re doing things within the program and the guys who have stuck with us.”
Bainbridge (7-4) came into the game, boasting a solid ground attack with the trio of Cameron McDowell, Damian Bouie and Terry Lewis. The Wolverine defense thwarted the Bearcats’ rushing plans. Union Grove allowed only three running plays over 10 yards in holding the Bearcats to a total of 151 yards on 36 runs. Most of those came on a 59-yard McDowell run early in the third quarter. Bainbridge never attempted a pass until three minutes remained in the game. By that time, the Bearcats trailed by a touchdown with no timeouts left.
But the story was absolutely Craine. Seventeen first-half carries for 81 yards and one touchdown. Twenty carries for 130 yards and two TDs in the second half. Twice, he struggled to get up after being pounded to the ground, yet he returned each time, picking right up where he’d left off. Pounding the middle, bouncing the play to the outside, dragging defenders, and knocking down people.
It looked as if the Wolverines might have an easy time of it when Lewis fumbled on Bainbridge’s third play of the game, and Charles Valentine recoverd for the Wolverines. Nine plays later — seven of them runs by Craine — Union Grove was in the end zone, courtesy of a 17-yard Craine classic. He broke tackles, changed directions and dragged a few defenders. The first quarter ended without a Bainbridge first down.
However, the first quarter included Union Grove quarterback Jonathan Slade throwing an interception, giving the visitors the ball in the Wolverines red zone. McDowell dove in for the tie with just one minute gone in the second. Union Grove’s defense was solid the rest of the way, and the Bainbridge offense was unable to put any more points on the board before halftime.
“Our defense, we’re not the biggest and we look like we’re out-manned a lot of the time,” Burgdorf said, “but [defensive coordinator Jeremy] Ross and our defensive staff made adjustments and kept that veer in front of us most of the night.”
Bainbridge was first on the board in the second half, when Lewis scored from the Wolverine 4 after McDowell’s 59-yard run. Union Grove then rode Craine from its own 6 all the way down the field, chewing up nearly six minutes before scoring at 9:11 of the fourth. Craine carried 10 times for 66 yards in the drive, scoring from the 4. But the Bearcats slightly deflected Shawn Davis’ PAT try, and Union Grove trailed 14-13.
As if an answer to a prayer, Valentine recovered his second fumble of the game on the Bearcat 36. Craine busted up the middle for 10, then bounced the next play out to the right side for 26 yards and into the corner of the end zone for a 19-14 lead. On a trick PAT formation, Eric Forrest tossed the conversion to Terry Gibbs for the 21-14 score.
Each team then went three-and-out, and Bainbridge was forced to burn all of its timeouts. A roughing-the-passer penalty on Union Grove plus four Preston Norris completed passes landed Bainbridge on the Union Grove 8 with 24 seconds left. Four incomplete passes later (one nearly a touchdown to Greg Cooper), and Union Grove was able to celebrate a trip to the second round of the playoffs.
Bouie ran eight times for 44 yards after a 200-yard performance the week before. McDowell collected 57 yards on nine tries, and Lewis 58 yards on 17 runs. Union Grove nearly damaged its own playoff hopes with nine penalties for 85 yards.