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Class 2A Blog: Championship preview

“I think now you have to turn over some more stones,” said Grage. “You try to look for small nuances. You might even go back to last year when we played them just to see if there’s anything we can try to figure out because we played them so close. You’re just trying to steal that point, steal that possession.

Pruitt said: “I think there’s a lot of familiarity with our kids and understanding of their plans, offensively and defensively. They have a great team. They sort of do what they do and they’re really good at it. So we know what they’re doing and I think it will depend on who’s going to be the best on Friday.

Earlier this season, the cane jumped to an 8-0 lead that held up most of the first half. The Bulldogs entered the board just before half-time to move closer to 8-7, then scored the only points in the second half with 5:03 left in the third. The fire touchdown was set up by a punt from Fitzgerald. On two occasions the Cane had a chance to score in the closing minutes, but both times the Bulldogs’ defense faltered, stopping the Cane in fourth place at Thomasville 15 and then posting three consecutive sacks on the final possession of Fitzgerald to seal the victory.

So there is not much that separates the two teams.

“We had a lot of missed chances,” said Pruitt. “We certainly had our chances … It will be a brand new game in a whole new location, and two teams which I think have both improved since then, but I would expect it to be another slugfest. “

Fitzgerald: Finding Their Way With a Reloaded List

It wasn’t until last year that the Canes were in the Championship, where they lost to Callaway. This team’s offense revolved around Chance Gamble, a Swiss army knife who lined up for quarterback, running back and receiver. He graduated, so the cane was starting from scratch. To make matters worse, a quarterback injury in Game 1 left them five weeks without starter Sultan Cooper.

It was mostly a one-season attacking experience, with some adjustments made to the line, inserting three sophomores into the starting lineup, as they worked to execute a lineup in T with only one wing.

By the time the playoffs rolled around, their identity was established.

“I would say the offense has improved – especially the offensive line,” said Pruitt. “When they play well you can see how good our running backs are.”

In Cane’s 27-6 semifinal win over Swainsboro, they rushed for 297 yards, led by DeNorris Goodwin’s 143.

The reason the Cane was able to remain a title contender while also finding his way offensively was the defense, led by upset Florida EJ Lightsey, a 3-star linebacker. Despite having the second-highest strength rating in the program in 2A according to MaxPreps, Cane’s defense entered the playoffs dropping an average of just 13.1 points. They had four ranked teams – top-ranked Irwin County 1A, Pierce County 3A, then Dodge County No.8 and then No.3 Thomasville – well below their scoring average of the season.

In the playoffs against Dodge County No.9, Fannin County, Putnam County No.5 and No.10 Swainsboro, they allowed an average of 8.25 points.

“Defensively we’ve played well all year,” said Pruitt. “There was a lot of consistency on this side of the ball. We have good players there. They are very disciplined and play extremely hard.

That the championship is played hours from his home in Atlanta is no problem for Fitzgerald. Perhaps most impressive about the Cane schedule is that they have played the majority of it on the road. They have only played five games at Fitzgerald and Friday will mark the game on the No.10 road.

“We are not a group that worries about hitting the road,” said Pruitt. “We actually love it. We are playing well away … We will have to start again this week.

If the Cane beats Thomasville, that will expand the theme of teams alternating wins in the series to seven. It will also be Cane’s first title since 1948. They are 0-6 in title matches since then, including 0-3 since 2015.

Pruitt said winning a title would mean “Everything.”

“The reason I took this job was because I wanted to see Fitzgerald push the envelope,” he said. “We had our chances … It would mean everything to our community. They are hungry for it. We had a great program, won a lot of games and made a lot of runs. But we couldn’t lower the exclamation mark or open the door. This is another opportunity. We have to make sure that we have an exceptional training week and that we take advantage of this opportunity. “

Thomasville: White ramps up on offense

With Ronnie Baker graduating from last year’s quarterfinals, the Bulldogs wanted Shannen White to take on the quarterback role and thrive. He had missed all of last season with a ripped ACL, so he was a question mark. As the season progressed, however, he emerged as a leader, allowing Grage to expand the offense to the point where he was just as effective as Baker.

“He made a difference both running and passing,” said Chris Beckham, host of the Football Friday Night radio show. “He was very efficient and didn’t return the ball. This is the key point that Thomasville needed answered and Shannen White certainly answered these questions.

During the season, he has 106 passes for 190 passes for 1,885 yards and 23 touchdowns for six interceptions and has 81 carries for 463 yards and eight touchdowns.

If White hadn’t suffered an ankle injury that knocked him out of the Bainbridge game on September 10, which also saw him miss next week in Oconee County, maybe the Bulldogs are sitting at 14-0. They lost 20-6 to Oconee County, and White came back for their next game and they haven’t lost since.

They led 2A with the highest strength rating of MaxPreps, with four of their five non-regional games against ranked teams – top ranked Brooks County 1A Public, No.10 Cairo and No.8. Bainbridge from 4A, and No. 3A 2 Oconee County.

They dominated both sides of the ball in the playoffs against Washington County, Heard County, Rabun County and Callaway, averaging 41 points while allowing just 13.25 points. Twenty-five points are an opponent’s closest, tied by County Rabun and Callaway.

Now the only opponent standing against the Bulldogs is a Fitzgerald team they’ve beaten before, but that doesn’t mean they’re still champions.

“We can’t call Robin Hines and say, ‘Hey, we’ve beaten them already, go ahead and give us the trophy,’” said Grage. “We still have to go out there and play our game.”

For this final week of preparation, Grage and the Bulldogs will take the same approach as Week 1 in terms of staying true to their way of playing, stubbornly refusing to make any concessions based on what a given opponent presents.

When the discussion revolved around Gunner Stockton and County Rabun, Grage insisted her team were only playing against themselves. When the discussion turned to redemption against a Callaway side that ended their season last year, once again, Grage insisted, the Bulldogs were playing themselves.

“If we’re beaten and we play our best, you tip your hat,” Grage said. “But I never want to leave a game and think, ‘Dude, we’ve gone out of our identity. “We’ve done it too many times in my previous years here.

Like Fitzgerald, the Bulldogs went without rings for decades, last winning a title in 1988. For players, it might as well be 1948, as they weren’t exactly like Cane players during the Fitzgerald’s last victory.

Grage’s message to his team is that they have the opportunity to assert themselves as one of the greatest teams in a program where history matters – their inaugural season was 1914.

“You have the opportunity to feel what greatness is,” said Grage. “When you’re a champion, no one can take it away from you – ever. This is something you can tell your kids about. We have all these alumni coming back from ’88, and people who played for Thomasville and have that pride, and I said, “You have every right to be those guys.” When I’m still around in 15 years, I can call the folks on the ’21 team, and bring Shannen White, Jacob Tyson and Ty Anderson back and talk to the guys who are on the next state championship race.

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