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Congratulations Cairo state champs

Congratulations to coach Tom Fallaw and his undefeated Cairo High School Syrupmakers on winning the 2008 State Class AAA football championship.

As I watched their 28-14 championship-clinching victory over the Flowery Branch High School Falcons from the Georgia Dome in Atlanta Saturday on Georgia Public Television, I was truly proud.

I am a proud graduate of Cairo High School, class of 1962, and watching Saturday’s game invoked a lot of memories.

The late coach West Thomas, for whom the Cairo High School football stadium is named, was an outstanding man and coach. My brother, Tom, played under him as a Syrupmaker offensive lineman.

Coach Thomas’ wife, Mrs. Elsie Thomas, taught me to type as a CHS student.

It was her encouragement and assurance that I could do anything I set my mind to that greatly influenced my decision to go into journalism and secure a job I love today.

Coach Thomas and former Bainbridge High School Bearcats head football coach Spencer “Onion” Davis, the grand marshal of Monday night’s Bainbridge Christmas parade who recently received the honor of having a BHS scholarship named for him and fellow former Bearcats head coach Sam Williams, had more positive influence on young people in our two cities in the 1950s and 1960s than any other two people I know.

Cairo’s last state championship team in 1990 was coached by current Decatur County School Superintendent and former Syrupmaker quarterback Ralph Jones, who also coached the Bearcats to the 1982 State Class AAA championship.

I don’t know coach Fallaw, but after watching his emotional television interview following Saturday’s game, it was obvious how much he loved and cared about the young men on his team.

My friend Carlton Gainous, who does an outstanding job as Cairo High School athletic director, is a Bainbridge High School graduate and former Bearcat quarterback who I had the privilege of covering.

There is another connection between our two proud cities.

The Flowery Branch Falcons, who the Syrupmakers beat Saturday, are the first team from Hall County to make it to the state championship game since 1982 when the Bearcats defeated the Gainesville High School Red Elephants 7-6 on a rain-soaked City Park Stadium turf in Gainesville.

Mark Willis, who kicked the winning extra point and broke up Gainesville’s two-point conversion try to preserve the Bearcats victory, has been coaching in Cairo for a number of years.

Football and other sports teach young people a lot of valuable life lessons. Among those lessons are the value of teamwork and setting goals and going after them.

The Syrupmakers reached their ultimate goal Saturday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, and I know everyone in Cairo and Grady County is deservedly beaming with pride.