THOMASVILLE — The Cairo Syrupmakers landed a decisive haymaker in the third quarter against the Thomasville Bulldogs.
Cairo scored 28 points in the third — and posted 35 in a span of 11 minutes, 38 seconds — en route to a 45-21 win over the Bulldogs on Friday night at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Quarterback Robert Matthew Peters accounted for four scores, two rushing and two passing. His 80-yard sprint on the first play of the second half widened Cairo’s lead to 24-7.
Peters’ long TD came after the Syrupmakers recovered a fumble in the end zone — a Cairor running back reached for the goal line and lost control of the football — with 42 seconds to go in the first half. A mad scramble ensued, and the Syrupmakers had the ball in the back of the end zone.
“That was big,” Cairo coach Steve Devoursney said of the late second-quarter score. "It was big to get that led going into halftime. But give credit to them. They came back. They didn’t give up.”
A fumble on the kickoff following Peters’ long TD led to another quick Cairo score. The 6-foot-4 Peters glided away from two would-be tacklers and strolled in from 8 yards out, and Noah Jones’ point after made it 31-7.
“We got some breaks early, but we still made a lot of mistakes,” Devoursney said. “We’ve got a lot to work on and a lot to get better on.”
Thomasvville turned the ball over on downs after Ricky Felton’s 45-yard kick return. Peters connected with Ernest Taylor for a 59-yard scoring strike, and De’vario Smith’s 51-yard interception return closed out the scoring for Cairo.
“First and foremost, I am embarrassed and I apologize for the performance tonight for out community,” Thomasville coach Zach Grage said. "We talked about it all week — we had outscored them in the fourth quarter the last two years 36-0. We were down at the half but I liked our mindset.”
Grage even predicted a touchback on the second half kickoff and told his players to follow that up with a three-and-out. But 14 seconds later, Peters was in the end zone.
“From then on, it was on us as a coaching staff,” Grage said. “We’ve got to get a lot of stuff fixed in the next couple of days because we’ve got a big one with Central next week.”
Thomasville struck first, as Hurston Waldrep’s punt backed the Syrupmakers inside their own 2-yard line. Jashawun Thornton capped the 13-play drive with a 1-yard run with 3:20 to go in the first quarter.
Jones kicked a 30-yard field goal with 11 minutes left in the second quarter, and Peters’ 50-yard hookup with an open Taylor put Cairo in front 10-7 at the 7:09 mark.
Peters ran for 164 yards on 10 carries and threw for 152 yards. Cairo finished with 312 yards of offense.
“He had a good night,’ Devoursney said of his senior quarterback. “He had a good night running the ball and throwing the ball and leading us. I was proud of our guys for what they did.”
Felton scored on a 12-yard run with 932 to go in the game, and the Bulldogs got the onside kick. That led to Kevin Cochran’s diving 14-yard catch of Ronnie Baker’s pass in the end zone with 6:49 to go.
But the next onside kick went out of bounds, and Cairo ran out most of the remaining time.
“Our guys didn’t give up. I was proud of them for that,” Grage said.
Baker completed 16 of 30 passes for 195 yards. Ricardo Johnson had 67 yards on three receptions, Kevin Cochran had six catches for 51 yards and Patrick McNeil had 28 yards on four receptions.
Cairo hosts Class AAAAA defending state champion Bainbridge next week. Thomasville travels up Jackson Street to face Thomas County Central (1-0).