TIFTON — In 2018, the Fitzgerald Purple Hurricane opened the football season by traveling to Alma and bringing home the Bacon. Tonight, head coach Tucker Pruitt hopes to do the same in his own home stadium. The Bacon County Red Raiders will be in town for a 7:30 p.m. start at Jaycee Stadium.

Fitzgerald was a state Class AA semifinalist in 2018, falling to eventual champion Heard County by eight points in the semifinals. They will be starting relatively new this year, with a fresh quarterback and receiving unit.

Bacon is a different team than a year ago. Keith Gosse took over as head coach in January. He had previous head coaching experience at McIntosh County Academy, but spent several seasons as an assistant at Tift County, where his path crossed with Fitzgerald’s.

Pruitt said Bacon appears to be “much improved” over a 2-8 record a season ago.

Mason Mikell lined up at quarterback for the Red Raiders in their scrimmage and was described as a playmaker by Pruitt. “We’ll have to play well,” Pruitt said.

Pruitt’s own crew played a tough scrimmage against Coffee this month. He highlighted performances by Mario Clark, Denorris Goodwin, Quantavious Pugh and Roderick Williams at running back. Clark is poised to be the leader of the bunch. “Mario is our workhorse,” said Pruitt.

The Hurricane continues to have two quarterbacks in its stable, Mac Turner and Rashad Davis. Both, he said, did good things against Coffee.

Fitzgerald will be looking for strength from its offensive. Pruitt said the team does not have much depth in the area, but does have a solid wall of players, including Jay Price, Tony Duffie, Altonio Belmer and Rajon Deese.

“They’re going to be essential for us,” said Pruitt. All are solidly built. Duffie is the biggest on the line, weighing in at around 325 pounds. That’s down a bit from his previous number. Duffie, who “had a great offseason,” will be one of the team’s captains.

Wide receiver Chance Gamble was out for the Coffee scrimmage. He’s a transfer from Upson-Lee and a vital one. “Chance Gamble is one of our best receivers,” he said.

Pruitt said there is room grow for his team

Fitzgerald and Bacon have been infrequent opponents over the years, this being only the 16th meeting between them in 63 years. Those bits have been quite the feast for the Hurricane. Bacon has won once in the series, 19-13 decision that occurred with John F. Kennedy was President. Last year’s matchup concluded with a 45-7 score.

Following this opener, the Hurricane hit the road, but only for a short distance. Irwin County is next on the list, with Fitzgerald ready to avenge a loss they suffered against the Indians in 2018.

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