FITZGERALD -- Last year after winning the Region 1-AAA championship, the Fitzgerald Purple Hurricanes got ready to take on the Effingham County Rebels in the first round of the state football playoffs.

Fast-forward one year and Fitzgerald is coming off winning a league title and getting ready to host Effingham County in the first round of the state playoffs.

Head coach Robby Pruitt's team will be coming in with a 9-0-1 record and a No. 3 ranking in the state Class AAA poll.

Effingham County, which lost 23 seniors and 18 starters from last season, still had a 7-3 record.

In their last regular season game, the Rebels were close to upsetting the No. 7 ranked Appling County Pirates. A 60-yard touchdown run by Lindsey Gaskin gave Effingham a 13-10 lead with about seven minutes left in the game. Appling then took the ball over and drove the field, scoring a touchdown with 28 seconds left. That gave the Pirates a 16-13 win.

"We were close. That would have been a big win for us," Effingham head coach George Spencer said.

Having to replace so many starters, the Effingham head coach was happy with his squad's 7-3 record.

"We were okay with that, considering how far we have come that is a good accomplishment for this football team," Spencer said. "This team is very young and very little experience coming into this season. But they have worked hard and have gotten better as the season has progressed."

"This team is alright with a 7-3 record and a chance to play Fitzgerald again in the state playoffs."

Gaskin will lead the Effingham offense against the Hurricanes. He has over 1,200 yards rushing on the year, according to the head coach.

"He really came into his own, when he decided what kind of back he wanted to be. At first, he was trying to outrun everyone, but when he realized he needed to be a power runner, he became a very good back," Spencer said.

Gaskin will be asked to help keep the ball away from the Fitzgerald offense.

"They have a very strong offensive team. They have scored a lot of points," Spencer said.

Fitzgerald averaged 38 points and 430.2 yards per contest during the regular season.

The Hurricanes strong suit continues to be strong running behind the wing-T offense. Leading the way is All-State running back Tyler Pruitt, who has rushed for 1,099 yards this season. He has averaged 6.7 yards per carry, while scoring 22 rushing touchdowns.

Kevious Johnson is not far behind with 766 yards rushing on 81 carries.

Quarterback Tucker Pruitt has given the Hurricanes a steady passing game. The sophomore has completed 56-of-105 passes this season for 1,005 yards, 10 touchdowns and five interceptions.

His favorite target has been Johnson, who has 21 catches for 319 yards.

"Fitzgerald is a strong, well-balanced team," Spencer said. "They are going to be a great test for our football team."

Game time will be 8 p.m. at Fitzgerald's Jaycee Stadium.

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