Cairo QB Steven Bench is surrounded by the Peach County defense during Friday night’s GHSA Class AAA Final Four game in Fort Valley. Peach County won, 16-7. (Macon Telegraph/Special to The Herald)
FORT VALLEY -- Cairo's road to the Class AAA Championship game was stopped a game short Friday night.
The Syrupmakers' season came to an end against former Region 1-AAA foe and No. 2 state-ranked Peach County. The Trojans held the Syrupmakers to 154 total yards, returned an interception for a touchdown in the first quarter and held on for a sluggish 16-7 victory in the state semifinals.
The Trojans will now play for the state title next week in the Georgia Dome, while the Syrupmakers, sporting a roster with 22 seniors, finished with an 11-3 record.
"We had an interception for a touchdown that we had pressure and kind of threw it up in the middle there," Cairo coach Tom Fallaw said. "They had two jump balls that they caught there in the fourth quarter. You take those plays away and who knows. But that's part of the game. You can't take plays away."
The two jump balls came during a clutch drive late. After Cairo scored its only touchdown on a 38-yard jaunt by Damian Edwards, Peach County took over at its own 11-yard line. Three plays later on a critical third down, quarterback Kentel Kendrick connected with Demarcus Robinson for a 32-yard gain. The two hooked up again later in the drive on a 41-yard bomb. The two passes led to the Trojans' final score, a 2-yard plunge by Kendrick that sealed the win.
"You can take those plays, and they were probably the swinging point in the game, but there's so many plays in that game that can go either way. That's why you play the game," Fallaw said. "A lot of people say that you can take those plays away and you win the game, but you can't take them away. They made the plays, and that's what happened."
The difference in the game was the Trojans' defense and its pressure on Cairo quarterback Steven Bench. Bench was harassed for four quarters, sacked three times, including the game's final play. Cairo's rushing attack netted just 117 yards at three yards per attempt.
"Give them credit. We tried everything we had," Fallaw said. "We tried intermediate routes, we tried screens, we tried sprintouts, we tried trick plays, we tried running right at them. They stopped everything that we did. They were a good football team."
Edwards led Cairo with 62 rushing yards.