THOMASVILLE — Thomas County Central experienced a second-half demise last week against Cairo that ended the Yellow Jackets' five-game winning streak. 

But Central and head coach Ashley Henderson can take solace in knowing their Region 1-AAAA championship aspirations are still alive. So is the opportunity to host a state playoff game. That is what is motivating the Yellow Jackets this week ahead of their region showdown with Bainbridge.

“The kids are not panicked at all,” Henderson said. “They came back to work on Sunday. We're getting ready for the next. They've handled it really well. We've still got everything still right in front of us to play for. Our guys are very excited about the opportunity.”

Central led 13-0 at halftime last week before succumbing in the second half to the Syrupmakers 14-13. But following its first loss since Aug. 27, Central responded positively during practice this week, Henderson said.

“Anybody can be a leader and anybody can be on board during good times, but it's during adversity when you find out who your leaders are and you find out who your dudes are,” he said. “We're finding out right now, some guys that maybe you wouldn't have thought were end up going to be leaders that are starting to lead. Some of those guys that we were expecting are even doing it more right now.”

The Jackers also are looking to defeat Bainbridge for the first time since 2016. Quarterback Bo Smith has thrown for 1,181 yards and 10 touchdowns. Defensive back Deyon Bouie, a Texas A&M commit, is considered one of the top recruits in Georgia. 

“Our kids know the rivalry,” Henderson said. “They respect the rivalry and are really excited about getting up there playing in a big ballgame in a big atmosphere.”

Friday's game could be the difference between a region championship and finishing fourth in the region. Bainbridge, 5-3 overall, is in first place with a 3-0 record. Central, Cairo and Dougherty are tied for second 2-1 records. Cairo plays Dougherty on Thursday. Central will play Dougherty next week. 

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