VALDOSTA — If Friday’s preseason game was Thomas County Central’s dress rehearsal, the Yellow Jackets appear ready for their opening act.

In three varsity quarters, Central ran for 260 yards, held the two-time defending state champs Lowndes High Vikings to just one touchdown and tallied a 19-6 victory at Martin Stadium.

“The thing I saw is we were a lot better this Friday than we were last Friday,” Central coach Ed Pilcher said. “This is a good boost for us and we needed it.”

After both teams’ junior varsity played the first quarter, the varsity squads went into halftime scoreless. But Chester Hightower quickly put the Yellow Jackets on the scoreboard on Central’s first play of the third quarter with a lightning-fast 78-yard scamper, showing off his track speed. Not to be outdone, backfield mate Debrale Smiley took Central’s next play down the left sideline for an 85-yard jaunt that was negated because of a penalty. Quarterback Dontavia Bogan quickly made up for his offense’s miscue with a 42-yard run two plays later that notched Central’s second touchdown.

After a Vikings’ score, Smiley finished off the scoring in the fourth quarter with a seven-yard plunge up the middle, in which he bounced off a would-be tackler. Smiley finished with 105 yards on 11 carries, while Hightower added 81 and Bogan ended with 74.

“I thought Bogan did a really good job running the offense,” Pilcher said, noting quarterback P.J. Williams was held out because an illness has limited his practice time. “The offensive line showed some improvement. I think we got better.”

Central’s defense held Lowndes to 155 yards on 32 carries.

“Defensively, we did a great job running to the football,” added Pilcher.

Central’s only concern came on special teams where the Yellow Jackets botched two extra point snaps, booted two kickoffs out of bounds and booted one punt for 13 yards.

“We’ve got to keep working on that,” Pilcher said.

Central will have a week to prepare for its season opener Friday at rival Thomasville. Pilcher said he would let his team enjoy the victory on the way home but its focus would quickly shift to the Bulldogs.

“We’ve got a big arch-rival game. We’ve got to get ready to play,” Pilcher said.

Central threw just two passes in the game, one resulting in an interception right before halftime and the other an 18-yard strike to Dedrick Mickens on a critical third-and-14 from Lowndes’ 32-yard line that led to the Yellow Jackets’ final score of the night.

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