CAIRO -- Thomas County Central was pushed for four quarters Friday night against Cairo. Fortunately for the Yellow Jackets, time was on their side.

After bursting to a 24-0 lead early in the third quarter, Central (5-0) surrendered 18-unanswered points before a late onside kick failed, leaving the final 24-18.

"I was happy with the way we fought back," said Cairo head coach Tom Fallaw.

Leading 24-12, Central used more than half the fourth quarter on one drive. Although Central didn't score, it left Cairo (3-2) with only a little more than two minutes. Cairo scored on a 31-yard pass from quarterback Tyler Johnson to Kagney Ponder. The comeback was too late, however.

The victory gave the Yellow Jackets the Barnetts Creek Bucket for the year.

"It felt real good," said Central senior wide receiver Nic Dodson. "I knew it was my last yea,r and I came over here for one thing -- to get that bucket."

Fallaw's squad trailed 10-0 at halftime before Central broke the game open, thanks to a crucial Cairo penalty.

At the end of the first half, Cairo quarterback Tyler Johnson threw an interception to Dontavia Bogan at about his 20-yard line and motored his way to about midfield before being tackled.

A penalty was called, which turned out to be on the Syrupmakers. It was assessed on the second half kick off, as Central's kicker, Cory Green, pooched it down near the goal line. After making the catch, Cairo's return man fumbled. Another Syrupmaker picked it up, but he fumbled and Central's Michael Jones pounced on the loose ball in the end zone for a touchdown.

Central answered with another quick touchdown on its next possession. With the ball at the Cairo 49-yard line, Central quarterback Doug Pilcher stepped back to pass and hit Dodson across the middle. He spun off a pair of defenders and scampered to the end zone.

But the Syrupmakers showed their pride in the third quarter. Pilcher tried a quick pass in Central territory, but it was deflected and landed into the arms of Miford Adams. He ran 36 yards for a score. But Cairo's comeback was hindered by penalties. Cairo had more first downs (17-14) than Central, more yards (328-238) and more penalties. The Syrupmakers were penalized 11 times for 87 yards. Much of the mistakes came on offside calls. Combined, the penalties and missed reads left Fallaw frustrated.

"We did not play disciplined football," said Fallaw. "I felt like if we did, we had a better chance of winning."

Central's win avenged last year's 7-3 loss at the Jackets' Nest. But the Yellow Jackets know it didn't come easy.

"It was just a typical Cairo-Central battle," said Central head coach Ed Pilcher.

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