Valdosta Daily Times

October 5, 2012

Cook visits Fitzgerald in massive Region 1-AA battle

Christian Malone
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Tonight, the last two Region 1-AA champions meet on the gridiron.

Cook goes on the road tonight to face Fitzgerald. The game starts at 7:30 p.m. Cook is 4-0 and ranked No. 3 in Class AA, while Fitzgerald is 4-1 and ranked fifth.

Cook won the region championship in 2010. Fitzgerald won it last year. Today’s game could help decide this year’s region champion; Cook, Fitzgerald and Brooks County are widely considered the favorites for the region title.

Cook head coach Ken Cofer expects a dogfight tonight.

“It’s going to be a slobberknocker,” Cofer said. “It’s a war. We say that every year. Any time you play anybody in this region (it’s a war). It’s not just Fitzgerald, it’s anybody in this region. ... It’s going to be two top-five teams going at it.

“If this doesn’t get you fired up, something’s wrong.”

Since they entered Region 1-AA in 2006, the Purple Hurricanes have won five of their six games against Cook. But Cook’s one win in that stretch was a 42-14 rout in 2010. And last year, while Fitzgerald was on its way to a region title, the Hornets gave the Purple Hurricanes a tough test, with Fitzgerald holding on to win 21-14.

The Purple Hurricanes will look slightly different tonight than they have in past years. Longtime Fitzgerald coach Robby Pruitt is now the head coach at Coffee. New coach Jason Strickland has changed the offense and the defense, but Cofer says Fitzgerald is still the same tough football team.

“It’s different than a Robby Pruitt team. They’re still good (though),” Cook’s coach said. “(Usually) once you get into a new defense and a new offense, you’re going to have some problems. Well Fitzgerald hasn’t had a lot of problems. They’ve played some good folks, and played some good football.

“It’s still going to be the same strong Fitzgerald. They’ve just got a different coaching staff. Coach Pruitt and his staff did a great job there in setting the tone, and Coach Strickland and his staff are going to do a great job, too.”

Fitzgerald is now running a variation of the flexbone, similar to the triple option offenses that Georgia Tech and Georgia Southern run. That means the Purple Hurricanes will probably run the football a lot tonight.

“It’s different than the bucksweep, counter, trap that you see Robby Pruitt teams do (in their wing-T offense). With this Fitzgerald team, you see midline, option, jet sweep and toss. It’s more like what we used to call the fling-T,” Cofer said. “More like Georgia Tech, Georgia Southern-type offenses that you see on TV. It’s close to that, except they run the jet sweep. Georgia Tech and Georgia Southern don’t do that.”

Last week, in its region opener, Cook defeated Thomasville 17-3. The Hornets compiled 235 rushing yards in the win, and quarterback Ross Pickle ran for two touchdowns.

“(Our team) played hard,” Cofer said. “Penalties were cut down; I think we had two offensive penalties (and) didn’t have any holding penalties. Four or five penalties on the night, and when you’re playing a physical team like that, that’s amazing. We dropped (a couple of long passes). That cost us. Our kids played hard, played with a lot of emotion. Defense played outstanding, as always. They’ve got to have another big week this week. Offense was able to run the ball.”

Fitzgerald beat Region 1 newcomer Pelham 40-11 last week.

The Purple Hurricanes lead the series with Cook 26-14-1.

“We definitely want this game,” Cofer said. “Our kids are ready. We’ll be ready to go play at Fitzgerald tomorrow night.”