Fitzgerald. At least, that is, when you are looking at coaches, offensive and defensive schemes, and football facilities. "> Fitzgerald. At least, that is, when you are looking at coaches, offensive and defensive schemes, and football facilities. ">

Purple Hurricane builds with new coaching staff

All things are new again in <A HREF="">Fitzgerald</A>. At least, that is, when you are looking at coaches, offensive and defensive schemes, and football facilities.

Gone is Head Coach Robby Pruitt who presided over the revival of a program that is numbered among the oldest in the state. In is Head Coach Robby Robinson who comes from Metter and has coached in the Georgia Dome for the last three years.

Robinson brings with him from Metter Brad Owens as offensive coordinator and brother Rhett Robinson to coordinate the defense. Both schemes are new to the guys in purple and gold.

Senior Tucker Pruitt departed the friendly confines of Jaycee Stadium to call signals for his dad at Warner Robins in the prolific Wing T offense that he has quarterbacked since a mere child. His departure left a hole at QB for the Canes. Senior Trent Taylor, Junior Blake Henderson, and Sophomores Josh Battle and Justin Newell are all getting a look to play behind center in the wide-open spread offense.

The offense will be based out of the I formation. There will be a variety of offensive sets. "We'll try to be as balanced as we possibly can between the run and pass. The defenses that gave me the most trouble (as a defensive coach) were those that ran out of a variety of sets," said Head Coach Robinson.

Defense looks to be the same scheme that Robinson used at both Metter and in Swainsboro where he was Defensive Coordinator in 2000 when his defense held Fitzgerald to zero points, enough for the Tigers to win the State championship over the Canes 6-0.

Describing his defense, Robinson said that the defense that Fitzgerald fans will see next year is based on an attacking philosophy. It will feature a five-man front. "Our defense is predicated on attacking. (Rhett) has been the offensive coach (at Metter) and he'll take those things into his job as defensive coach."

Region 1-AAA all-purpose yards leader Kevious Johnson graduated from the backfield of the Purple Hurricane to go on to Wofford College, but the number two leader, Carlos Bell, is back and looks to get the ball again as a senior when Fitzgerald is on offense. "He never needs to come off the field," said Offensive Coordinator Brad Owens. "He's too dangerous. Wherever he's lined up the defense will be looking for him to get the ball. That gives us a lot of options." Also running out of the backfield are expected to be Senior Dexter Boone, Junior Fabian Daniels, and Sophomore Johnathan Roberts among others.

Seniors Jerry Taylor, Gabe Justice, and Tedric Wilcox along with Junior Donte McCray will be among others that will perform receiving services for whomever is calling signals in the multi-faceted offense.

Senior Center Sam Rodgers and Senior Tight End Michael Mann will be back and will be joined by seniors Luke Hatcher, Sam Scott, and C.J. Studstill as well as juniors Matt Fletcher and Stephen Everett with sophomores Chad Thompson and Russ Ridgeway on the line. The O line looks to be much improved from a year ago.

Defensive lineman Rodney Milsap is a junior this year and as he gets older he gets better and commands the attention of opposing offenses as well as college recruiters who are hoping that he looks their way a year from now as he readies for his senior year. When Milsap is on the field the Hurricane defense has been most effective.

Milsap is looking to have help on the line from a cast of linemen that include seniors Reuben Lewis and Quan Phillips Chris Slacks, and Kyle Bozeman along with junior JoeDee Pitts and sophomore Derrick Lately. Keeping the sweep and the option honest look to be corners Senior Tedric Wilcox, Junior Johnny Bly, and Sophomore Josh Battle. Backers in the defense that was evolved by Head Coach Robinson are expected to be juniors Jason Floyd and Josh Mims along with sophomores Nate Inman and Jerad Smith. Keeping it from going too far are predicted to be safeties Jerry Taylor, Trent Taylor, and Paul Smith, all seniors, along with Junior Preston Scott.

The Purple Hurricane will have 1-AAAAA Tift County and AAAA opponents Crisp County and Cairo as well as Class A powerhouse Hawkinsville and AA Irwin County before beginning their 1-AAA region schedule at Westover on October 17th.

Expected to be the class of Region 1-AAA is last year's champion, the Thomasville Bulldogs. The Hurricane will host the K-9s in their place on October 24th before the Rams of Worth County also play in Fitzgerald's Jaycee Stadium on Halloween. The Canes go to Albany to play the Golden Tornadoes of Monroe on November 14th.

Under construction are two state of the art field houses, one at the high school and one at the middle school, along with track and soccer fields. On the drawing board is an addition at Fitzgerald High School that will include a new weight room and other athletic facilities. Jaycee Stadium is in Phase One of an expansion to seating on the home side with Phase Two slated after the construction of the weight room addition.

Excitement is building in and around Fitzgerald as the Purple Hurricane continues to develop towards storm strength for the August 29th season opener at Fitzgerald against the Turner County Rebels. Note: Randy Rodgers covers Fitzgerald High School football for the Fitzgerald Herald-Leader. He is not affiliated with Fitzgerald High School or the Ben Hill County School System.

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