CAIRO — Thomas County Central’s defense didn’t need much help Friday night, but the Yellow Jackets’ offense provided it anyway.

The Yellow Jackets, ranked No. 3 in Class AAAA, shut down Class AAA No. 3 Cairo 17-10 at West Thomas Stadium. The Syrupmakers (4-1) managed just 110 yards — 73 coming on its first scoring drive and 64 more on the final drive of the game — against Central (6-0).

“Our defense did a good job of stopping them in the second half,” Central coach Ed Pilcher said. “I thought our defense played well when it had to.”

Cairo running back Reginald Bryant, who rushed for 1,594 yards in earning all-area player of the year honors as a sophomore, was held to 42 yards on 15 carries.

However, even with Central’s stout defensive effort, the Jackets’ biggest aid came from thier time-consuming offense. Central ran 12 plays on the opening possesion of the game — eating almost six minutes off the clock. The Jackets added a 15-play drive that consumed 6:38 right before half that ended in a 27-yard field goal from Chandler Oppenheim.

“Anytime you play Central, you’re not going to get the ball much,” Cairo coach Tom Fallaw said. “We only had the ball three times in the first half and scored once.

“You know you’re going to get your shots against Central, you’ve got to make the most of them and I don’t know if we did that tonight. We made some mistakes in key moments and you have to give Central credit, they probably made us make some of those mistakes.”

In the second half, Central used a 12-play drive, ending in a four-yard touchdown run from Debrale Smiley, that consumed five minutes, to take a 10-7 lead. Smiley added a three-yard scoring run to cap off a 14-play drive that milked seven minutes off to seal Central’s win.

“We did a great job of getting three or four yards at a time and keeping the ball away from them,” Pilcher said. “That’s the name of the game.

“If their offense is on the sideline, it’s hard for them to score. That’s what we wanted. We had some good drives to run the clock off.”

n SYRUPMAKER STRONG: Central’s defense also gave a strong outing. Despite the loss, Fallaw was proud of Cairo’s group holding the Jackets to just 17 points — 22 below their season average of 39.

“Shoot, I give our defense credit,” he said. “I can assure you that Central had to work for everything they got. There was some licks passed tonight and I can’t be more proud of that defense.”

n COSTLY PENALTY: A false start penalty with 13 seconds remaining not only negated an eight-yard gain for Cairo, but also cost the Syrupmakers any chance of a desperate comeback. Pushed back to the Central 14, Cairo lined up for a 31-yard field goal attempt from Garrett Godwin. However, the penalty was a live ball penalty, meaning the clock restarted and ran out as Godwin’s kick sailed through the uprights.

“We knew that we had to get two scores,” Fallaw said. “Thirteen seconds to go, we needed to go ahead and get a score on the board and then try and get the onsides kick to get another score.

“I thought the penalty was a dead-ball penalty. They told me it was a live-ball penalty, which in turn starts the clock. We just got caught up in the situation.”

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