Originally created 12/16/00

Swainsboro plays a dangerous Fitzgerald



SWAINSBORO, Ga. - It doesn't bother Swainsboro football coach Rayvan Teague that his team is on the road for the fourth straight week.

"You don't have a choice; you have to go with the hand you're dealt with," said Teague, whose Tigers will end their trek with tonight's Class AAA state championship game at Fitzgerald. "The fact that we've had to go on the road, I've been real proud of them with the way they've been able to get focused. We set up some scenarios to make them more comfortable playing on the road.

"I think our fan support has been great, and we've had as big of a crowd or bigger than anybody we've played on the road, and I expect the same in Fitzgerald."

The Georgia High School Association awards home-field advantage to the higher-seeded team. Swainsboro finished second in Region 2-AAA and has played just one playoff game at home, while Fitzgerald (13-1) won Region 1-AAA.

Since the Tigers (13-1) beat Thomasville 20-0 in the first round, they have faced Region 4-AAA champion LaGrange, Region 8-AAA champion Hart County and Region 3-AAA champion Washington County in consecutive weeks.

The Tigers meet a dangerous Fitzgerald team that has won 13 straight games since dropping its season opener to Coffee. Teague said the Purple Hurricanes' wing-T offense is a concern.

"Their offense, being so deceptive with misdirections and that type of stuff, will neutralize our speed somewhat on defense," Teague said. "I think (Fitzgerald's) defense is very hard-hitting and pursues the ball extremely well. We're definitely going to have to work for the scores we get."

Swainsboro never has won a state championship or even played for one. Fitzgerald is looking for its first state title since 1948. Because both teams are hungry for titles, Teague doesn't envision either side starting the game flat.

"I wouldn't think in a state championship game that we would have that problem," he said. "I would expect us to be high. It's probably a good thing (it's the state championship) because after the Dome, we won't be overwhelmed. I don't think either team is just going to be super geared up. I think both are going to be level and go at it."

Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. at Jaycee Field, where the Hurricanes are 7-1 this season.

Swainsboro quarterback Jason Samples said tonight's game is the one his team has waited for all season.

"We've got an opportunity. We just have to cash in," he said.

Reach Tim Morse at (706) 823-3216 or timmorse@augustachronicle.com.