Every Thursday, Class AA blogger Adam Krohn will preview a game of the week (GOTW).
Thomasville at Thomas County Central
When, where: 8 p.m. Friday, Jackets' Nest, Thomasville
Records, rankings: Thomasville is 1-0 and No. 7 in Class AA; Thomas County Central is 1-0 and No. 8 in AAAAA.
Last meeting: Thomas County Central won 16-14 in 2016.
Maxwell's projection: Thomas County Central by 6
Fresh off a win against Cairo, the Thomasville Bulldogs are riding momentum and looking to achieve something they haven't since 1991 — beating both Cairo and the Thomas County Central Yellow Jackets in the same season. Not only will a Bulldogs win on Friday achieve that, but they'll also earn the 700th win in program history.
Cairo and TCC are the Bulldogs' biggest rivalries, with TCC just four miles down the road.
"These are the games people remember forever," second-year Bulldogs coach Zach Grage said. "The families know each other and a lot of them played each other back in the day and are still here. Some have cousins or close friends on the other team. We circle this game on the calendar."
Last season, the Jackets eked out 16-14 win over Thomasville, giving them a 25-24 lead in the all-time series that dates back to 1962. It's the first series lead they've held thanks to a dominant 16-2 run that dates back to 1993. The Bulldogs also lost to Cairo 23-12 the week before to start 0-2, but Grage said the community was contempt because the TCC game was expected to be a Jackets blowout.
"I had to tell the team to not be satisfied," he said.
A year later, the Bulldogs stormed to a 37-8 win over Cairo — ranked No. 9 in AAAA at the time — in their opener, surging to No. 7 in AA after being unranked in the preseason. Thanks to lightening delays, the game didn't start until 10 p.m., but maybe that wasn't such a bad thing for Thomasville. Kicker Carl Blackmore booted a 53-yard field goal to break the school record of 52 yards set in 2000 by Alex Fineberg. Blackmore, who was recruited from the soccer team, had never played football before last season. In addition, Trey Tilman rushed for 106 yards and 2 touchdowns on just 8 carries.
Now facing the Jackets, who are No. 8 in AAAAA, the expectation isn't simply for the Bulldogs to keep the game close. They'll be gunning for a win at TCC, though the Jackets are six-point favorites according to the Maxwell projections.
TCC is coming off a strong performance of its own, a 30-13 win over Worth County. According to the Thomasville Times Enterprise, Ahmad Hobbs rushing for 101 yards and a score and Tay Cooksey had a 68-yard touchdown reception and interception on defense.
The Jackets are aiming for their sixth consecutive win against Thomasville. But Thomas County Central coach Bill Shaver — in his 10th season with the Jackets — knows a win will be hard to come by. While the Bulldogs return seven starters on both sides of the ball, the Jackets have lost eight from each side.
"They've been building for this moment," Shaver said. "They've been playing a lot of sophomores and freshman for a couple of years now and they took some licks (the Bulldogs went 5-5 last season and 1-8 in 2015) with some young kids and now they're a good team."
Thomasville runs a high-tempo offense out of the spread and rotates three running backs, while TCC runs a spread option and focuses on clock control. With the contrasting offensive styles, something will give.
"They run a lot (on offense) and play in a 4-4 (defensive scheme) and will play hard and be solid," Grage said. "The whole idea of blocking and tackling is something they stress a lot over there. They have an old-school mentality and they'll do what they're supposed to do to get the win. No trick plays or home runs."
"Our goal is to limit their reps and control the clock," Shaver said.
Tillman said beating Cairo and TCC to start the season would mean a lot to the community, which is reeling from a recent police shooting of a well-known resident.
"They called him 'pop,'" Tillman said of the victim, who died from his injuries. "There were protests and that kind of stuff and the city was divided for a little while. We were able to unite as one to beat Cairo and hopefully we can do it again."
Follow the AJC’s Class AA coverage on Twitter.