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Saturday, August 25, 2012 - 5:48am

Yellow Jackets Rely On Steady Defense

Thomas County Central had an uncharacteristic season in 2011. The Jackets lost five games for the first time since 2004 and finished fourth in Region 1-AAAA. But coach Bill Shaver’s squad won its first playoff game, a major upset over highly-ranked Statesboro.
“We were really close last year in a lot of games,” said Shaver. “We still feel pretty good about our team even though we ended up with a 7-5 record, which is not what our fans want to have. I feel like we did some good things last year.”
Thomas County Central fans are used to wins, however, not just progress. Despite playing a tough schedule, the Yellow Jackets left 2011 feeling somewhat disappointed. And while five losses are not what is expected in the south Georgia program that boasts five state titles, Shaver thinks the record does not always tell the while story. Especially with a schedule as tough as TCC’s this season, which includes non-region tilts with traditional powers like Thomasville, Marist, Colquitt County, Cairo and Tift County.
“I think I can match our five non-region games with any program in the state of Georgia,” said Shaver. “That’s a pretty tough schedule.”
“Those are the games our fans like to see anyway, even though it’s probably not good for the coach’s record. If you come out of that stretch with a 3-2 record, you’ve got to feel awesome.”
Although the non-region schedule is as tough as it gets, the Jackets may get a slight reprieve during region play, as Houston County, Northside-Warner Robins and Warner Robins are no longer on the Yellow Jackets’ slate.
“It’s not quite as tough of a region schedule when you take the three Warner Robins schools out of it,” said Shaver. “It makes it a little less threatening.”
While the region may be less threatening, the situation at offensive line is. The Jackets saw all five starters on the O-line graduate as well as the team’s starting tight end. However, TCC returns eight starters on defense as well as two running backs and starting quarterback Adam Choice.
“We’re counting on our defense to kind of hold the ship steady until our young offensive line can get some experience and gel together,” said Shaver.
Tonight’s game against arch-rival Thomasville will be a good litmus test for the Yellow Jackets and their green O-line. A win would do wonders for the team’s confidence before confronting the monsters that lurk in the team’s scary non-region schedule.