Last year’s 39-0 loss to Fitzgerald has stuck in Brooks County coach Maurice Freeman’s craw.
Above all, one statistic has.
His Trojans were outgained 463-56 yards, and Freeman has held a grudge since. The loss not only ruined Brooks’ seven-game win streak, but relegated the Trojans to second in region and kept them from their first region championship in three years.
“We just didn’t tackle their running backs,” Freeman recalled vividly still. “We made too many mistakes, and they made very few.”
Friday’s 15th meeting between Brooks and visiting Fitzgerald likely will determine the Region 1-AA champion, though Cook County looms only one game behind and still on Brooks’ schedule.
Fitzgerald has owned the series with Brooks, having won six of the teams’ last seven meetings and the most recent three. The winner of this game has emerged region champ five of the last seven seasons, and Freeman sees that as potentially the case again this year.
“We’ll need to beat (Fitzgerald) and beat Cook, too,” Freeman said. “This is definitely a huge region game for us.”
Last year, Brooks couldn’t handle Fitzgerald’s Wing-T offense. The Trojans allowed one runner 272 yards and two touchdowns and tackled poorly, Freeman said. Fitzgerald’s offense was on the field for six drives and scored all six times.
This year, unbeaten Brooks (6-0, 2-0) comes in No. 2 and Fitzgerald (5-1, 2-0) No. 4, averaging a high-powered 34 and 30 points per game, respectively. It has all the makings of a showdown, with the winner taking the inside track to the region title.
“Going to Quitman, we know we have a tough task ahead of us,” Hurricanes coach Jason Strickland said. “We hope it’s close in the fourth quarter and we have a shot somewhere.”
Fitzgerald approaches Friday’s 7:30 p.m. kickoff led by quarterback Romarius Gaulden, who has rushed for 490 yards and nine touchdowns. Brooks counters with its quarterback, Malcolm Parrish, who has passed for 1,430 yards and 16 TDs, including 290 yards and four scores in last week’s 28-10 win over Thomasville.
This season’s 6-0 start is Brooks’ best since beginning 8-0 in 1995, the year it finished 9-2.
For motivation in practice this week, Freeman said he often has reminded players how lopsided last year’s loss to Fitzgerald was and how the Hurricanes have won the last three meetings.
“It’s something we talk about often, and I keep bringing it up,” Freeman said. “It’ll be something my guys will be tired of hearing me say time and time again.
“We’ve got to start turning the tide.”