Nov. 7—THOMASVILLE — For the Thomas County Central Yellow Jackets, the 2022 season was all about proving everyone wrong. In 2023, it has been about proving everyone right and they have done just that. Back-to-back region titles and back-to-back undefeated seasons has marked the Yellow Jackets as one of, if not the, best football team in Georgia 6A. On Friday night, Central will begin what it hopes will be a deep playoff run with a first round match up against St. Pius. A game that marks the beginning of what they are calling "the road to Atlanta."
"It's a brand new season," Central head coach Justin Rogers said about the playoffs. "You've got 32 of the best teams in Georgia that are playing and it doesn't take a bad game. It only takes a bad half or quarter that could cost you the entire thing."
That's something the Jackets know all too well. Last season, Central dispatched Evans and St. Pius with ease, but one bad half against Roswell sent the Yellow Jackets home early. While this Jackets squad feels optimistic about their chances, Rogers was intentional to stress the limited margin of error at this stage of the season.
"They (the Central players) recognize that we've got a really good football team, but also, they were on this team last year and recognize what a bad half did to us," Rogers said. "So, they understand and I think that's really big for us. We had a chance to win it last year, we had a really good team and we played really good. We literally had one bad half. So, I think this group really gets it more. Last year they were kind of in uncharted territory and I think this group recognizes what it is and understands that while we are very optimistic about our opportunity here we also understand the severity of any kind of misstep."
This is not the first time that the Yellow Jackets have met the Golden Lions out of Atlanta in the playoffs. Last year St. Pius came into the Jackets Nest in the second round where Central handed them a 49-14 ticket home. This may be a new year and a new St. Pius team, but Rogers and his staff are hoping to take every bit of value they can out of last year's contest.
"We'll look back at that film because they've got the same staff and we've got the same staff and so, there will be a lot of similarities that you can take from that game in the way that they attacked us and defended us," said Rogers. "So, you'll definitely look at the game from last year from a schematic point, but as far as from a personnel point, you know, obviously it's a totally different team."
This Golden Lions team was much better last year as they were 6-6 and second in the region. This year, St. Pius came in fourth in region four, winning a single region game and just two games all season.
On many levels, this game feels like a formality. Thomas County Central out plays St. Pius in every statistically significant category. Central averages 42.4 points per game, including an average of 18.4 points in the second quarter, while St. Pius averages just 10.2 points per game.
St. Pius has also been shut out four times this season and will now have a stout Central defense on the opposite sideline ready to shut them down again. The Golden Lions have scored just 67 points all season with the highest single game point total coming out to 19 in week one. Meanwhile, Central has outscored their opponents 424-87 while pitching four shutouts.
This is a match up that highly favors Thomas County Central, but Rogers and the Yellow Jackets are not the type to underestimate their opponent. It's playoff time after all and, as Rogers stressed, the margin for error is razor thin.
Central will welcome in St, Pius this Friday night in the Jackets Nest at 7:30 p.m.