CAIRO — In a game that had nearly 850 yards of total offense between the two teams, Gary Davis’ 6-yard gain with a minute to go sent the Cairo sidelines into exuberant joy.

Davis converted a third down, allowing the Syrupmakers to keep possession and hang on for a wild 33-31 win over visiting New Hampstead in the first round of the Class AAAA state playoffs. 

Cairo (7-3) advances to meet Cedartown, a 55-10 winner over Hampton, in the second round.

“Credit to them — they came ready to play,” Cairo coach Steve Devoursney said of the Phoenix, who made a nearly five-hour drive from west Chatham County .”We knew they were going to be good offensively, and they were. (My team) just found a way. This team is going to find the hard way to do everything, and this was no different tonight." 

Junior Phoenix quarterback Pauly Seeley barged his way into the end zone on a 1-yard sneak with 2:15 to go in the game. But Davis’ run on third-and-5 sealed the Syrupmakers’ win.

Davis scored on a 2-yard run to cap Cairo’s first drive of the second half, stretching the Syrupmakers’ lead to 26-18. 

Jalon Spence’s tumbling catch of Braylon Robinson’s pass in the end zone completed a 37-yard scoring strike that put Cairo up 33-18 with 5:11 left in the third.

“It was big for us,” Devoursney said of the two quick third-quarter scores. “Our defense has played great all year and we knew there was going to be a time when they would have trouble stopping somebody. Coach Hockman does a great job and they kind of had our number tonight. They hit some big plays on us. But I’m proud of our guys for fighting back.”

Seeley, who had a receiving touchdown to go with his rushing score, led New Hampstead right back down the field. Jamell Coast scored on a 1-yard run on fourth down to bring the Phoenix within 33-24.

“Early on, the defense kind of got rattled,” New Hampstead coach Kyle Hockman said, “but we made a couple of adjustments at halftime and competed really hard. Offensively, we had a couple of kids go down. Obviously, we want to keep playing. I’m proud of them.”

Seeley, who went 20-of-31 for 289 yards, led a drive that put New Hampstead up 6-0 on Nemehian Lemon’s 3-yard run. 

Robinson, who also had a rushing touchdown, hit Tyree Kelly for a 32-yard score. 

Amarion Byrden answered a Seeley TD pass with a 20-yard scoring run for Cairo and a 13-12 lead. 

Robinson’s 14-yard dash up the middle pushed the advantage to 20-12 with 1:41 left in the first half, but the Phoenix again answered. 

They used a gadget play, with Toriano Bias taking a handoff from Lemon before lofting a pass to a wide open Seeley. Seeley took off down the Phoenix sideline for a 51-yard score with just 1:03 left in the half.

The loss ended New Hampstead’s season at 7-4

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