THOMASVILLE — Coaches say all the time the biggest improvements are made between the first and second games. For the Cairo Syrupmakers, their improvements led to their first win of the season last week.

The defense forced turnovers. The team didn't tire like it did in its first game. The result was a 21-7 victory over Escambia (Fla.).

“We played a lot better; still made mistakes and still had turnovers,” Cairo coach Steve Devoursney said. “But overall, we played better in the second game than we did the first game.”

Cairo is still trying to play catch-up compared to most of the teams in the Georgia High School Association. While many teams are gearing up for their fifth game this week, Cairo has only played two, due to COVID-19 protocols postponing or canceling its first two games. The Syrupmakers will play one of those postponed games Friday night when they travel to Fitzgerald to play the Purple Hurricane. It is a team Cairo was scheduled to play to open the season.

“I wished we could have played them early. I think they've gotten a lot better since they've been playing,” Devoursney said. “They put a lot of pressure with their offense on you.”

Devoursney said the Purple Hurricane are good on defense and have good linebackers, “like they always do,” and Fitzgerald has E.J. Lightsey, a linebacker who has committed to Florida.

Turnovers could be the deciding factor. Cairo forced five takeaways last week. Fitzgerald capitalized on Irwin County turnovers to topple the defending Class A champions 18-15 in its season opener. But the Syrupmakers also need to improve taking care of the ball as well, turning it over four times against Thomasville and multiple times last week.

“Turnovers, we're not very good right now,” Devoursney said. 

Better offensive rhythm and production may just come with time as Cairo plays more games. 

“Just getting into game shape, game mode, all of those factors, just practicing, secure the ball at game speed,” he added. “It takes about three games to figure out what you can do and what you can't do. We're still in that process of figuring out what we're good at and what we're not good at.”

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