CAIRO — Before the start of Friday night's game, the Cairo Syrupmakers already had punched their ticket to the Class AAAA playoffs. They just needed to know their destination.
But after almost two decades of the same first-round venue, was there any doubt?
A stifling defense and methodical rushing attack made sure the Syrupmakers wouldn't have to leave home for next week's first round.
Quarterback Kevin Speed rushed for 147 yards, kicker Noah Jones, who later announced he was committing to the University of Georgia, booted three field goals and the Syrupmakers knocked off the Westover Patriots 23-14.
Cairo finishes as the No. 2 seed in Region 1. It'll host a playoff game for the 17thstraight season, dating back to 2004.
“When we were 0-4, a lot of people didn't think that streak was going to be alive this year,” Cairo coach Steve Devoursney said. “Thank God for our coaches and our players that fought through this and kept the streak alive. Heck, it's a new season now. Everybody's undefeated. We'll get ready to go.”
Cairo will host West Laurens next week.
The Syrupmakers won despite two turnovers, including a fumble on the opening kickoff that gave the Patriots possession at the Cairo 18-yard line. Westover scored four plays later on a one-yard run for its only points of the first half.
Westover cut Cairo's lead to 16-14 in the second half but Cairo responded with a 68-yard drive, punctuated by John Carter's 3-yard touchdown run.
The Syrupmakers had a couple of sensational defensive plays to keep the Patriots out of the end zone. Senior defensive back Jeffery Jones forced a fumble on a pass completion that stymied a Westover possession. Junior defensive lineman Jacquez Brown added a sack on the Patriots' final offense play to cap a terrific night for the Cairo defense.
The Syrupmakers had four drives that went inside the Patriots' 20-yard line in the first half but had to settle for three field goals. Cairo tallied 212 first-half yards but maintained just a 16-7 lead.
Speed scored Cairo's only touchdown in the first half on a 5-yard scramble that tied the game 7-7.