In the space ship toward that football state championship, there’s that red button, “Turbo boost from stunning someone undefeated.”
Fitzgerald and Greater Atlanta Christian pushed that button Friday by beating Vidalia and Heard County in the second round of the Class AA playoffs.
Maybe now comes propulsion into the championship stratosphere.
“That’s what we’re hoping,” Fitzgerald coach Jason Strickland said of arguably his team’s biggest win. “That’s one thing we’ve told our kids.”
It’s remarkable how lopsidedly Fitzgerald (10-2) stunned Vidalia 52-20, and GAC (9-3) trounced Heard 52-21 to reach this Friday’s quarterfinals against Jefferson and Early County, respectively. In their fifth straight win, the Purple Hurricanes exploded for 39 consecutive points in the second quarter gained 344 yards, including 330 rushing, according to the Tifton Gazette. Similarly, in their second straight win, the Spartans shut out Heard 24-0 in the second half, sparked by Rafe Chapple’s 357 yards passing and Kyle Scales’ four touchdowns rushing, the Gwinnett Daily Post reported.
Talk about momentum, Strickland said that when his Hurricanes went ahead 18-14 on a 47-yard field goal just before halftime, “You could feel the energy leave their sideline and come over to ours.”
Now comes the challenge of harnessing that momentum in a season in which Strickland said, “anything you can think of has happened.”
“We know (now) we have a team that’s good enough to make a big run,” he said. “There are several things, though, that have to continue to go well for you.”
Spartans coach Tim Hardy said ousting an 11-0 team like Heard could be just the propulsion his team needs as well.
“We’ve seen difficult opponents throughout the year,” he said, “but to have a night like we did Friday, to execute that well on the road, was a huge confidence booster.”
Like Hardy, Strickland likes his team’s intensity. But, he warned, “It’s hard to keep finding that energy and intensity you played with the week before. We had more energy and intensity against Vidalia than I’ve ever seen us have.”
Hardy agreed beating an undefeated team in the second round is a boost that can sustain a team through the playoffs. But he cautioned against premature plans to play in the Georgia Dome three weeks from now.
“We all know what’s at stake,” he said of looking beyond the quarterfinals. “You have to focus on what you’re doing this week.”