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Buford ready for road test
Wolves visiting second-ranked Fitzgerald in state semifinals
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Directions to Fitzgerald
From Buford High, take a right onto Buford Highway and make a left onto Highway 20 east. Turn right heading south on Interstate-985 and follow onto I-85 South. Continue south on I-85 and merge onto I-75 in Atlanta. Stay on I-75 south through Macon and stay on the interstate for 75 additional miles and exit at No. 82 (Ashburn/Fitzgerald/Rebecca/Sylvester). Turn left onto GA Hwy. 112 and drive for three miles and make a right on GA Hwy. 107. Stay on Highway 107 for 16 miles and turn right on North Merrimac Drive, then make an immediate left on West Central Avenue. Turn right on South Jackson Street and then make a right on West Cypress Street. Fitzgerald High is located at 601 West Cypress Street, Fitzgerald.

BUFORD — Buford coach Jess Simpson doesn’t balk when presented with the words of Fitzgeral High football coach Robby Pruitt.

Simpson immediately cracks a smile and lets loose an abbreviate laugh at the idea of Pruitt’s group essentially being undermanned and undersized to face the back-to-back state champs from Buford.

The No. 3-ranked Wolves’ (12-1) coach knows when Pruitt starts to belly ache about his team’s lack of personnel leading into tonight’s Class AA state semifinal game, it is all just a way of playing down his own team.

“I like coach Pruitt, but he’s the worst poor mouther of his own team,” said Simpson about comments leading into tonight’s game in Fitzgerald. “We know this game is going to be a battle.”

Of course, Pruitt begs to differ with that sentiment. The coach of the second-ranked Purple Hurricanes (13-0) finds it hard to believe that his program can match the size of Buford, which he says is loaded with 300 pounders.

“We only have one guy on defense that tops 200 pounds,” Pruitt said. “Trying to figure out how to match Buford’s size is really the million dollar question.”

Now don’t get Simpson wrong. He’d love to have a big size advantage on the opponent. If the Wolves could go out and just muscle the ball down the field with its group of running backs, that would just play right into their playbook. Last week, the Wolves churned out 317 rushing yards in a 26-0 state quarterfinal win against Cook.

“If we could have another night like we did against Cook, I’d be tickled to death,” Simpson said. “But we know that Fitzgerald is a very balanced team on defense.

“Fitzgerald beat Cook 42-12 during the regular season, so we know they have a very good team.”

Another night rushing the football with that amount of dominance would suit Buford’s offensive line just fine too. That line has been the driving force behind the Wolves 2,965 rushing yards this season.

“I feel like our size advantage can be beneficial, but this game against Fitzgerald is going to come down to how well we execute,” Buford senior lineman Nolan Alexander said.

In a sense, tonight’s semifinal game could mask as a state title matchup with all the acclaim both Buford and Fitzgerald have drawn — and it is rightfully earned praise.

Buford is now in the state semifinals for the eighth time since 2000, thanks to a largely run-based offensive attack.

Wolves senior fullback Jessel Curry, an Auburn commit, leads the team with 618 yards and 14 touchdowns and Darrian Smith has 515 yards and six touchdowns.

Seon Jones, a junior, has been a valuable tool for the Wolves running attack in the postseason, including 111 yards in last Friday’s win against Cook. He has now amassed 524 yards on the season.

As a team, Buford has averaged 6 yards per carry this season.

In the postseason, Fitzgerald has put up points in bunches. The Purple Hurricanes scored 42 in the first round against Greene County, a season-high 64 in the second round against Swainsboro, and 35 points last week against Callaway in the state quarterfinals.

The Purple Hurricanes, who run a Wing-T offense, are led by a trio of playmakers on that side of the ball. Senior wide receiver Trenton Pruitt leads the team in yards and is committed to play at Vanderbilt next year.

Sophomore quarterback Caleb Nobles has completed 70 percent of his passes this season, and senior 180-pounder Latravious Stewart sees most of Fitzgerald’s carries.

The winner advances to face the Lovett/Calhoun winner at 4:30 p.m. next Friday in the Class AA state title game at the Georgia Dome. The Lions defeated Buford 28-21 earlier in the regular season, in turn claiming the Region 6-AA title.

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