tom.mark@gaflnews.com



ADEL - The cliche is a familiar one. Offenses win games, defenses win championships. Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling might agree with that. So might the Fitzgerald Purple Hurricanes.

Recall last season's AAA state championship game. The Hurricanes entered the game with a much-heralded offensive attack, having won 13 games in a row. But against the stout Swainsboro defense, the Hurricanes were unable to score a point, falling 6-0.

Saturday the Cook High Hornets return to the Georgia Dome for the second consecutive year rolling along much like last year's Fitzgerald team. The Cook record is unblemished. In each of the 13 wins, the Cook offense has literally taken the opposition apart averaging more than 40 points per game.

An equally important statistic shows up on the other side of the ball.

The Hornet defense has allowed the equivalent of just three field goals per game. According to defensive coordinator George Dean, the formula for success is a simple one.

"We're playing kids who want to play," Dean said. "We don't want anybody out there who doesn't want to get after it."

"We've gotten great leadership and effort from a lot of our seniors," Dean said, referring to Roshawn Seymour, Briand Williams, Cornelius Brown and Mastafa Tippins.

This game is particularly important to Tippins, a Hornet defensive end. Last season at the end of Cook's quarterfinal game with Lamar County, Tippins was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct and was forced to miss the semi-final game in the Georgia Dome against Washington-Wilkes.

"We've gotten a lot better play out of Mastafa this season," Dean said. "He's real careful not to do the silly things."

Tippins is the team's second leading tackler with 128 behind Seymore's 164.

Dean credits much of his defense's play to their unselfish nature.

"You can't be selfish on this defense, you have to do your job," he said.

This unselfish attitude has led to other teams only being able to gain an average of 81 yards on the ground and less than 63 in the air.

Championships are nothing new to the second-year Cook coordinator. A thirty-year veteran of the Florida High School ranks, Dean has participated in more state semi-final games than he can remember. He does, however, remember four state championships where twice his teams came away winners.

Dean was the head coach of a Butholtz team out of Gainesville that won a title in 1991.

Dean puts this group of Cook defenders in the top echelon of players he has coached through the years.

"Effort-wise and commitment-wise, these guys are right at the top," Dean said.

Dean knows that it will take a top-notch effort to defeat the defending state champion Panthers Saturday, but was reluctant to make any predictions.

"It will depend on how we match up with them individually," he said, "and we won't know that until Saturday."



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