Fitzgerald head football coach Jason Strickland knows that his team is in for a huge challenge Friday night when it hosts undefeated Greater Atlanta Christian in the semifinals of the GHSA Class AA state playoffs.
But Strickland is banking on his team being ready to play another strong football game in front of a huge home crowd.
“I have looked at all 13 of their games on film and we are talking about a different animal here,” said Strickland, whose team advanced to the semis by defeating Pace Academy 49-21. “I mean, they do everything good. They have a running back that has signed a D-1 scholarship, a wide receiver who will sign a D-1 scholarship and an offensive line that you can look at and see how well coached they are.
“And the defense is every bit as good as the offense. It will be a great test for us, but it’s what we have been working for the entire year.”
Fitzgerald did catch a break when it won the coin flip for another home game.
“Without question, winning the coin flip was huge for us,” Strickland said. “We have been a very good home team and we feed off the crowd. At this time of the year, every team is a little fatigued, and we are pleased to have them make a long trip instead of us.
“But I will say that they are the best team we have played.”
Greater Atlanta Christian defeated Vidalia 34-22 to advance to the semifinals. In that game, GAC’s defense came up with two first-quarter turnovers to help the Spartans jump out to a 28-6 first-half lead, before holding on for the win.
They are led by running back/defensive back Micah Abernathy, who has signed with Tennessee, and wide receiver Darius Slayton, who had narrowed his choices to Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina.
Fitzgerald averages 375 yards per game on the ground, led by senior quarterback Gerald Morgan, who has 2,150 yards rushing -- including three straight games with more than 200 yards -- and sophomore JD King, who has rushed for 1425 yards. Morgan also has shown the ability to throw the football, with 15 touchdown passes, 12 to Trey Graham.
Strickland admits that at this time of the year, not many changes will occur in the game plan.
“As a coach, we want to keep it as normal as we can this week and just try and work on things that we need to work on,” Strickland said. “We know what they are going to do and they know we are going to run the football right at them.
“I mean, we have an offensive line that has led the way to us having almost 5,000 yards rushing this year, so obviously that’s a strength. It should be a great high school football game in Fitzgerald this Friday night.”