Canes aim to end title drought Saturday - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Canes aim to end title drought Saturday

FITZGERALD, GA (WALB) -

There aren't many towns as crazy for their high school football teams as Fitzgerald.

Hurricane Fever is a real thing here, especially this week, as the Canes play for the Class AA state title Saturday in Atlanta.

"It's been amazing," says senior OL Jason Poe. "The whole town is fired up."

It's been a while since the town has celebrated a state football championship. The Canes last won a state title in 1948, and have four losses in the championship game since. The town and the team hope the fifth time is the charm.

Head coach Jason Strickland says ending this drought would mean a great deal to the whole community.

"I'm not certain that the people here know the Cubs won the World Series. But what they do know is that we're playing Saturday," Strickland jokes. "To be able to culminate the end of the season and win a state championship, I know it's special at a lot of schools. It's special at a lot of places. But there's no doubt in my mind that it would be just a little bit more special here in Fitzgerald.

The Canes were in this exact position a year ago. A 42-21 loss to Pace Academy in the state title game ended last season in disappointing fashion.

Strickland says the team has never been focused on any kind of redemption from last year's Georgia Dome loss. Instead, this team wants to send their senior class out with a bang.

The Class of 2017 has a chance to be the most special in Purple Hurricane history. A win would give them 45 in their time, tied for the most of any class. Two state title berths and a championship would put them over the top.

"I don't know that I've ever been around a more deserving group to win a state championship," Strickland says. "Now that doesn't mean you get to win it. They've led us in more possible ways than you could ever ask for. It would be a great way to send them out, holding that trophy up at the end of Saturday."

The Canes will not be favored Saturday. Benedictine is undefeated this season, and has won 34 of their last 35 games.

But the one loss in those last 35? To Fitzgerald in the 2015 state quarterfinals. Running back J.D. King rushed for a career high 324 yards and three touchdowns in the 54-28 rout of the Cadets in Savannah that night.

Benedictine hasn't forgotten that, and the Cadets believe they're better prepared for it this time around.

"They're a very good football team and JD King is a spectacular athlete," Benedictine head coach Danny Britt told WTOC-TV. "Hopefully there are some things we can do schematically to make us a little better there. I think we are stronger and a little bigger in places to work against that."

Fitzgerald and Benedictine kick off at 1:00 p.m. Saturday in the Georgia Dome. GPB will broadcast the game live. WALB Sports will be in Atlanta for state title game coverage.

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