Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

FITZGERALD -- Fitzgerald football coach Robby Pruitt put down the telephone momentarily Wednesday evening and asked his son, Trenton, a question from across the house.

"Trenton how many yards do you have this season?!" Pruitt yelled to his son. "I need to know!"

Trenton's answer was 909 yards rushing, 811 receiving and 25 touchdowns at halfback.

Although, Pruitt did not need help on the next question: Had he ever won a state title while one of his three sons played for him?

The answer was no, meaning Trenton -- his youngest, who is in his senior year -- represents the final shot.

And that takes place tonight as Pruitt's team will try to keep that final chance alive in the GHSA Class AA semifinals against two-time defending state champion Buford, which beat Fitzgerald in last year's semifinals, 44-21.

Still, coach Pruitt insists he has been thinking more about X's and O's than winning a state championship with his son.

"We hadn't talked about that too much," the coach said. "We're so busy in practice and trying to do so much. I guess we might talk about it when it's over."

Pruitt's oldest son, Tyler, was a running back who graduated in 2002, and his middle son, Tucker, was a quarterback who graduated in 2004. Although both won NCAA Division II titles at Valdosta State, the closest they got to a prep state title under their dad was his first year in 2000. That year, the Purple Hurricanes lost the Class AAA state title game, 6-0, against Swainsboro. In the 2001 AAA semifinals Fitzgerald lost, 41-16, against Cedartown.

This year, with Trenton, who has verbally committed to Vanderbilt, Fitzgerald could produce that elusive state title Pruitt wants more than anything. He already has won seven while coaching in Florida at University Christian (four) and Union County (three), and also becoming the youngest inductee into the Florida High School Activities Association Hall of Fame in 2000 at age 38.

Since then, Pruitt has coached eight of the past nine years at Fitzgerald, trying the head coaching job at AAAAA Warner Robins in 2003. He went 6-4 at Warner Robins before coming back to the Purple Hurricanes.

Trenton, however, has occasionally thought about what's at stake personally as he tries to win his father's eighth state championship ring.

"This is the last chance," Trenton said. "(My dad) has always talked about winning all seven of his state titles. He also said, though, he would trade all of them to get just one with one of his boys. I'm just trying to make it happen for him."

Fitzgerald's only state football title was won in 61 years ago. Since 2000, Buford, meanwhile, has won five, including one in Class A and four in AA.

"Buford is the king of the hill," Pruitt said. "I don't know if you can say there is any one thing they do well better than anything else. They're a very good football team in all phases of the game. They don't really have any weaknesses."

Buford's primary strength is in the trenches, allowing quarterback Alexander Ross to engineer an offense that, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post, averages 352.6 yards and 34.5 points a game.

"We've got to score some points when we get the ball," Pruitt said. "We've got to mix it up against them. They are the biggest team in the state, trenches-wise, and you can't just run the ball on them."

Trenton, however, won't be able to do it by himself if Fitzgerald has a chance at winning. Although Trenton accounted for 116 yards of total offense and two touchdowns in last week's 35-21 quarterfinal win against Callaway, quarterback Kaleb Nobles is another important part of the offense, accounting for 136 passing yards and two scores in that same game.

Controlling the ball, in Trenton's mind, is the best way to keep Buford's high-powered offense off the field.

"We've got to short-yard them and eat as much of the clock as we can," he said.

If that works and the Purple Hurricanes win, the Georgia Dome awaits them next weekend, where they would play at 4:30 p.m. next Friday against the Calhoun-Lovett winner for the state championship.

"It would be huge, not just for (winning it with my son), but for the whole community," Pruitt said. "To be able to win that game would be a huge honor. We would have a shot at a state title then."

And possibly Pruitt's eighth -- and most memorable -- state championship.