THOMASVILLE -- Three points.
That is all Thomas County Central's offense mustered against Cairo last year. The Yellow Jackets had a handful of drives in the Syrupmakers' red zone, including two in the third quarter alone, and could only come away with a lone field goal. The three points were the fewest the Jackets scored since a 35-3 season-ending loss to Statesboro in 2001.
That lack of execution against Cairo is still fresh in the Jackets' minds.
"Every time we got down there, in between their 15 and 20-yard line, it was just our offense, our whole offense just couldn't punch it in," wide receiver Dedrick Mickens said.
Senior wide receiver Nic Dodson agreed that the Jackets' offense failed to get the job done.
"I think, well we didn't execute, we didn't put the ball in there when we needed to," Dodson said. "We had it inside the 10, three or four times and just didn't execute. Cairo did a great job of stopping our run, they took the dive and everything."
Central coach Ed Pilcher said Cairo's defense last year was responsible for limiting Central's offense.
"They had some guys who were pretty good over there and thank goodness a lot of those guys have graduated," Pilcher said. "They did a good job last year and we missed a couple touchdown passes, too.
"We just didn't make plays when we needed to make plays. But Cairo played us very tough and they deserved the win."
Pilcher said last year was just an example of how the rivalry brings out the best in the Syrupmakers.
"Undoubtedly we know that when we play that bunch over there," he said, "they play their best ballgame of the year against us and that's the way it ought to be. We hope we can reciprocate and play our best game of the year."
Pilcher reminded his team of that fact after practice Wednesday, before instructing them that they too will play at their highest level.
Mickens and Dodson agreed the Jackets will need to elevate their game this year.
"We've just got to come out there and play harder," Mickens said. "Go out there and play our hardest and win the game."
"Focusing in, that's part of it," Dodson added. "We've got to focus in when we get down there. We know that when we get down inside the 10, we've got to pound that thing in there. We've got to correct the mistakes, we can't make the mistakes from last year."
For Dodson, the game against Cairo carries a little extra this year. As a senior, it's his last chance in the rivalry that crosses Barnett's Creek.
"It's a big rivalry game, we're going across the bridge and we're trying to get that (Barnett's Creek) Bucket back," he said. "It's my last year and I want to keep it over here for my last year."
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