Take it from a guy who has seen both teams up close and personal, the state championship game between Warner Robins and Bainbridge could be intriguing.
Ashley Henderson, who just completed his first season at Thomas County Central, had the opportunity to play both Class AAAAA finalists. The Yellow Jackets compete in Region 1 and played each one; they lost 42-10 to Warner Robins and 44-3 to Bainbridge.
Henderson won three state championships when he was head coach at Valwood, a GSIA school in Valdosta. He took over the Thomas County program in the spring and led the school to a 5-5 record. Two of those losses were to the two teams standing.
“Warner Robins has been playing at a high level all year,” Henderson said. “Bainbridge really came on halfway through the season and they play a tough brand of football. It looks to be an interesting rematch for sure.”
Henderson was impressed by Warner Robins quarterback Tyler Fromm and receiver Marcayll Jones, who was the Region 1 Offensive Player of the Year.
“We got to Fromm a couple of times early,” Henderson said, “But you know what, it seemed like he kind of liked it.”
Henderson said Fromm, who has thrown for 3,727 yards and 40 touchdowns, “can make every throw … back shoulder … long throw … he can put some air under it … any type of different ball, he can throw it.”
Henderson said the overlooked element of the Warner Robins offense is tailback Jahlen Rutherford, who has rushed for 949 yards.
“They started running the ball and big-playing us,” Henderson said. “That running back is underappreciated. He’s really good, too. You can’t put all your eggs in the stopping-the-pass basket.”
Henderson likes the way Bainbridge runs the ball and appreciates the sort of physical game thee Bearcats play. “Everything they do is determined up front,” he said.
In speaking of the Bainbridge offense, Henderson said, “That running back (Caleb McDowell) is a really good player and the quarterback (Quayde Hawkins) has really come on strong.”
The Bainbridge defense is led by Tennessee commit Roman Harrison, who has 89 tackles and 8.5 sacks. Harrison (6-2, 240) has excellent speed and mobility. “He’s a war daddy,” Henderson said.
Warner Robins will be the favorite in the game, based on their 12-2 record and a regular-season 38-0 win over Bainbridge.
“Warner Robins can get you out of your game plan. They have so many weapons,” Henderson said. “Bainbridge is playing with a lot of confidence. I think it will be a very interesting game.”
The Class AAAAA championship will be played on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.