THOMASVILLE — Thomas County Central showed true dominance in the first round of the Georgia state playoffs as they sent St. Pius packing in a 49-0 shut out.
“I used to tell people all the time, the first game sometimes is the one you have to get rolling. Get off the hump, right? Then you can get can get on a run,” said Central head coach Justin Rogers. “So, you want to get this first one. The first one’s always got the butterflies. So, this was great.”
The offense came out in full force, scoring on the ground in the opening minutes. Jaylen Johnson and the receiving crew were in excellent form Friday night as they got going early. Johnson hit Jikevious Jones, who made a remarkable catch, to put the Jackets on the one and Trey Brenton, as he always does, finished the drive off on the ground to put central up 14-0.
Though Johnson did throw an interception late in the fourth quarter, he got right back on the horse. After the defense forced a punt from the Lions, Johnson immediately found his big tight end Malachi Thomas for a pair of receptions including a toe tap catch by Thomas to put the Jackets on the three yard line. Johnson finished the drive off with a rushing TD making it 21-0 Central.
Brenton would find the end zone again on an option play that saw him break free for a 52 yard score. It looked as though Central would take a 28 point lead into halftime, however, the Jackets defense forced a punt and Dee Reddick is always dangerous in the return game. In the last 30 seconds of the half, Reddick returned a punt 70 yards to the end zone, leaving the St. Pius bench dumbfounded and down by 35.
Central’s offense would slow as the backups came in at half. Johnson stayed in for just one drive during which he hit Tre’von Pringle on a quick route for another touchdown. Johnson would exit the game after the first drive of the second half with a total of 11 completions for 179 yards. The Jackets would punch in another rushing TD after backup QB Kris Wilhelm found Zamari Wilson for a 27 yard gain.
The offense was not the only phase of play cooking for Central, however. After all, a shut out in the first round of the playoffs requires a solid defense and kicking game. Luckily for the Yellow Jackets, all three phases were in top form.
Central’s defense was stifling. St. Pius had next to zero success on the ground or in the air and the Lions back field was filled with blue jerseys. Senior Walter Reddick got things started for the defense with a huge sack in the first quarter and everyone else followed suit. The Jackets defense combined for four sacks and six QB hurries. In total, Central recorded 45 total tackles. Jayden Rubbo led the way with seven while Dannell Jester and Tywon Christopher each had six.
The kicking crew of Hayden Morales, Drew Reneau and Drew Jones was about as perfect as one can be. Seven of Morales’ eight kickoffs went for touchbacks and, while a field goal was not attempted in the game, Reneau and Jones were perfect on extra points. Reneua was six for six and Jones was successful on his single attempt.
It’s hard to ask for anything better than a near perfect performance for the 11-0 Yellow Jackets in the first round of the state playoffs. Now, Central will look to this coming Friday as they are set to take on 8-3 Jonesboro at home.