QB Angelo Pease (5-11, 190 Sr.)
RB Reginald Bryant (6-0, 210 Sr.)
RB Ronnie Wooten (6-0, 195 Sr.)
WR Dewayne Isom (5-10, 170 Sr.)
DT Montavius Williams (6-3, 260 Sr.)
LB Jake Elkins (5-11, 195 Sr.)
FS Jermyrin Bodiford (6-1, 185 Jr.)
- Thomas Co. W, 28-6
- Thomasville W, 10-7
- Monroe W, 21-0
- Worth County W, 42-7
- Peach County W, 16-7
- Dougherty W, 42-7
- Perry W, 42-10
- Crisp County W, 38-6
- Westover W, 30-6
- Troup W, 48-0
- Burke County W, 41-28
- Eastside W, 23-6
- Carver-Colu. W, 42-13
It’s hard to find a blemish in the Cairo High football team’s season so far.
The undefeated Syrupmakers, ranked first among Class AAA teams, have crushed the majority of their opponents this year, en route to their second trip to the Georgia Dome in as many years.
But this year’s 248-mile trip to Atlanta is far different in meaning than 2007. This time around, Cairo (13-0) isn’t going to the Dome for the semifinals. Instead, it will attempt to win the whole thing for the first time since 1990 on Saturday when it plays Flowery Branch for the state title.
"The anticipation has pretty much been what you’d expect in a state title game," Syrupmakers coach Tom Fallaw said. "We’re not going to change anything at practice, but the team is getting excited."
Regardless of the outcome, Saturday’s game will be the last in a Cairo uniform for many players. With 28 seniors leading this year’s team, four years of dedication to football will come down to the state championship game.
And that alone might be the difference maker.
Those 28 seniors, and their junior and sophomore teammates, aren’t completely new to the Georgia Dome. Last year, the Syrupmakers traveled to the Dome for the state semifinals, where they defeated North Hall 42-21 and advanced to the state title game.
They returned home the following weekend, where they fell to Carver-Columbus 16-13 in the state finals.
Saturday’s game is an opportunity for Cairo to achieve the goal it narrowly missed in 2007. But this time, Carver-Columbus is nowhere to be found, as the Syrupmakers took care of them in the semifinals, defeating the defending state champs 42-13.
With the former successor out of the way, all eyes are on the state title.
"We’re a different team (from last year) so there’s no hard feelings (with Carver-Columbus)," Fallaw said. "We’re just happy to be going to the finals."
They made it to the finals led by strength on both sides of the ball and not in just one specific area. Entering Saturday’s game, the Syrupmakers are averaging 32.5 points per game while giving up only 7.5. While their defensive numbers are better than Flowery Branch’s, the Falcons (12-2) are averaging slightly more points per game, making them the perfect challenger for the Cairo defense.
"Our biggest concern with Flowery Branch is everything," Fallaw said. "There’s no doubt we’re going to see an extremely talented team. They’re well coached, and have speed on both sides."
But that doesn’t mean Flowery Branch won’t have its hands full when Cairo has the ball. The Syrupmakers have eclipsed the 40-point mark five times this season, led by a rushing game that features the 4.5 speed of quarterback Angelo Pease (127 attempts, 778 yards, nine TD) and running backs Reginald Bryant (198 carries, 1,555 yards, 18 TD) and Ronnie Wooten (89 carries, 717 yards, 11 TD). Together, the trio have combined for over 3,000 rushing yards and 38 touchdowns.
Cairo has also proven to have a potent passing game, with 16 touchdowns coming through the air, all from Pease, who also has completed 63 percent of his passes.
"We’re going to have to throw to win," Fallaw said. "You have to do both, and I think we can do that."
Defensively, Cairo is bonded by their experience, as 10 of their defensive starters are seniors. The experience shows, and Syrupmaker opponents will tell you that.
"They run to the ball exceptionally well," said Thomasville head coach Richie Marsh, who lost to the Syrupmakers 10-7 this year. "They totally understand their scheme and they’re never caught out of position. They’ve got several three-year starters there, and they don’t tend to give up the big play."
The biggest defender of them all is 6-foot-3, 260-pound defensive tackle Montavious Williams, who leads the team with six sacks and has verbally committed to Troy.
He is joined by speedy linebacker Jake Elkins and the only starting junior on defense, Jermyrin Bodiford, who leads the Syrupmakers with six interceptions.
But Cairo isn’t looking to intimidate anyone with statistics alone. Instead, the Syrupmakers come to the Georgia Dome knowing that no matter how many seniors are playing, or how strong each starter is, it’s going to be a battle for the title."We’re talking about a state championship," Fallaw said. "It really doesn’t matter if you’re a senior or not, everyone is ready."