THOMASVILLE — Special teams were a cause of elation and concern for both Cairo and Thomas County Central on Friday night.
The Syrupmakers blocked a punt and ran it back for a score and also took over at the Central 1-yard line to set up a very short field for a touchdown — and the Yellow Jackets blocked a Cairo punt and ran it back for their first touchdown.
Yellow Jackets coach Ashley Henderson said what his team needed to work on after the scrimmage was obvious.
“Punt team,” he said. “We’re going to be better in the special teams game. We are going to get that fixed. Our defense played well in the first half. They only gave up two plays. our defense gave us a chance in the first half, We gave up 14 points on the punt team.”
The Syrupmakers outscored the Yellow Jackets 28-12 for the three quarters of varsity play, getting a 65-yard run touchdown run from Matthew Peters and Peters’ 41-yard touchdown pass to Nick Gosier early in the third quarter.
“It was good to see them start fast in the third quarter,” Cairo coach Steve Devoursney said of his team. “Usually ,we play well in the second half.”
Cental’s offense staged its best drive of the night on the last opportunity for the varsity, going 80 yards. The Yellow Jackets converted two third downs and picked up a fourth down when they recovered their own fumble for a gain on fourth and short.
Khalique Guyton ended the drive with a 17-yard pass to Dondell Green.
“And Khalique checked to that play,” Henderson said. “Khalique did a great job.”
Gong up against one of Class AAAA’s stingiest defenses, Henderson saw bright spots for his offense.
“We’re getting closer offensively,” he said. “They’re a good football team. Hats off to them. We had opportunities and we had drops. In this offense, when we throw the ball, we need to make catches. We found some stuff offensively we’re good at and maybe we need to limit some of the stuff we’re doing — find a package we’re good with and stick with it.”
Henderson also extolled the work of freshman Adam Hopkins.
“Adam Hopkins made a ton of plays,” the coach said. “He’s going to be a special football player.”
The Syrupmakers missed a 43-yard field goal but kicker Noah Jones put all his kickoffs save for one in the end zone.
“We just have to make our field goals and we can’t get punts blocked,” Devoursney said. “That will get you beat, especially in big games. We have to get that corrected and get ready to go.”
Devoursney also had an eye out for other areas that need addressing before the season opener against Thomasville.
“We made a lot of mistakes, too,” he said. “Our defensive line missed a bunch of tackles. Our offensive line missed a bunch of blocks and assignments. We’ve got a lot of things to correct before our first game next week.”
Devoursney, though, was encouraged by how how his team flew around the field on both sides of the ball.
“We got some lucky breaks with field position,” he said. “Hats off to Central — they never quit. They got some unlucky breaks.”
Cairo’s younger players tacked on two more touchdowns for a 42-12 final, and Henderson averred his confidence in his team.
“I believe in this football team,” he said. ?I believe in these kids. We just have to go back to work.”