Worth County’s Zytavious Anderson (29) dodges the tackle of Fitzgerald’s Darius Hampton (35) Friday night at Milt Miller Field. (Staff Photo: Tim Morse)
SYLVESTER — There was nothing fancy about the formation.
A simple read option by Fitzgerald High School quarterback Gerald Morgan, then ground and pound.
The Purple Hurricanes controlled the second-half ball and clock, overcoming a 13-0 first-quarter deficit Friday night to top Worth County 27-20 in the season opener for both schools at Milt Miller Field.
Fitzgerald ran 23 third quarter plays and held the ball for all but 3:05 of the quarter, wearing down a young Worth County defense that was up for the challenge. It spoiled a perfect beginning for the Rams, whose defense allowed Fitzgerald just four yards of total offense on the Hurricanes’ first two possessions.
“They made some adjustments at halftime and I have to give it to them … they played a great game,” Worth County’s Toddrick Jackson said.
The Rams’ offense was equally as impressive as the defense on their opening drive. After converting a fourth down near midfield, Dontavius Buford scampered to his left and down the sideline for a 25-yard touchdown gallop to make it 6-0.
Then late in the first quarter, Jackson scooped up a loose ball, ran to his right and scored on a 35-yard fumble recovery. After Seth Souter’s extra point, the Rams led 13-0 with 1:09 left in the opening quarter.
But Fitzgerald (1-0) quickly marched downfield and cut the lead on Morgan’s 1-yard plunge to make it 13-6 with six seconds left.
Worth coach Jason Tone called the next play the biggest momentum killer.
On the ensuing kickoff, an 88-yard return for a score was negated by a penalty. The Rams never seemed to recover afterward.
“We had the momentum, but you never know what penalties like that are going to do to you,” Tone said. “Offensively, we just couldn’t sustain any drives. We knew Fitzgerald’s defense was strong, but their offense also kept us off the field.”
The Hurricanes then tied it at 13 on a 25-yard pass from Morgan to Rawal Cheema with six seconds left in the first half.
But Worth (0-1) never seemed to regain its first-quarter form. They managed just 13 yards of total offense in the third quarter, while Fitzgerald controlled the ball and the clock, eventually grabbing the lead on JD King’s 6-yard touchdown run with 18 seconds left.
The Rams kept themselves in the game when Eric Burrows intercepted a pass with 10:01 left at Fitzgerald’s 33. But Worth’s offense went three downs and out, ending any chance they had at a comeback.
Morgan provided the clincher with 5:24 left, scoring on another 1-yard plunge to make it 27-13.
In the closing minutes following a Hurricane fumble, Jackson hauled in a 24-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Dusty Hoke. However, the onsides kick attempt failed and Fitzgerald ran out the final minute.
Tone praised Worth County’s defense, which forced three turnovers.
“I saw a lot of positives,” Jackson said. “One thing is that we never quit. Coach is always telling us to never quit at practice. But we also put in some new things this summer on offense that I believe we did well.”