It was only natural for Swainsboro's defense to lead the Tigers to their first state championship. It had been the team's backbone all season.
Swainsboro capped a 14-1 season Saturday night by scoring an early touchdown, then let its defense do the rest en route to a 6-0 victory over Fitzgerald at Jaycee Stadium in the Class AAA state championship game.
Meanwhile, with dismal field conditions at Finklea-Robinson Stadium in Americus, Daccus Turman got the rushing yardage he needed to pass Herschel Walker for the all-time single-season record, but Washington-Wilkes was unable to come away with a victory. Americus won the Class AA title with a 14-0 shutout.
Turman gained 140 yards against Americus, giving him 3,172 yards this season, five more than Walker's record of 3,167 yards.
"The record's nice, but I wanted to win the game," Turman said. "I'm not really thinking about (the record) right now. It's something to be proud of; I give my offensive line the credit. This record is as much for them as it is me."
Brandon Andrews, who scored Swainsboro's touchdown, finished the game with 192 yardss rushing, giving the senior 2,814 yards this season. He is ranked third on the state's single-season rushing list behind Turman and Walker.
"He's rushed for over 6,000 yards in his career," Swainsboro coach Rayvan Teague said. "He refuses to go down. He's got great vision. I hope to see him on Saturday real soon."
But Andrews wasn't thinking about college football after the game.
"I know when it hits me I probably won't be able to stop crying," he said.
Swainsboro ended Fitzgerald's 13-game winning streak with a dominating defensive performance on wet turf. The Tigers posted their second straight shutout and eighth shutout in their 15 games this season. The team allowed just 69 points this year.
In the team's five playoff games against Thomasville, LaGrange, Hart County, Washington County and Fitzgerald, the defense posted four shutouts. The only team to score against the Tigers in the playoffs was then top-ranked Hart County, which scored 20 points in a 48-20 loss in the state quarterfinals Dec. 1.
"This was the toughest shutout of all," Teague said. "Fitzgerald has a great team and deserved to be here. They did a super job. But I think our defense just played that well."
Swainsboro earned its "Road Warrior" nickname after the first round, winning all of its playoff games on the road against four straight region champions.
"We beat every good team in the state on the road," said Teague, who has guided the Tigers to a 26-2 record over the past two seasons.
"The kids did a great job and refused to go home tonight."
Swainsboro scored the only points of the game with 1:15 left in the first quarter, capping an 8-play, 51-yard drive with Andrews scoring on a 10-yard touchdown run.
Reach Tim Morse at (706) 823-3216
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 868-1222