4 Questions with Fitzgerald head coach Tucker Pruitt

Today’s interviewee is Tucker Pruitt, coach of defending Class 2A champion Fitzgerald. Pruitt is in his sixth season as the Purple Hurricane’s head coach. His record is 48-18. Pruitt was Fitzgerald’s quarterback in 2001 and 2002 under his father, Robby Pruitt. Fitzgerald’s 2021 state title was the school’s first since 1948.

Tucker Pruitt, Fitzgerald head coach

1. Looking back on 2021 one more time, what was the story of that team, and what did it mean to the school and community given the history? “The story of last year’s team was perseverance. We were not very good at the beginning of the year. We got shut out by Pierce 17-0 in game five and didn’t even win our region. But our players and coaches kept working hard and kept getting better and kept believing in each other. We started playing a little better down the stretch and were able to defeat three region champs on the road (Fannin County, Putnam County, Swainsboro) before finishing it off beating our region champ (Thomasville) in Atlanta. The championship was obviously really special for our community because it had been 73 years and we had been so close on numerous occasions. For me personally, it was a dream come true. This is a championship that I chased as a player and came up short. When I got the job at Fitzgerald, they were coming off back-to-back state runner-up seasons, and there was only one thing left to do. Last year we were so close and lost in the championship game by five (to Callaway). I am really glad that we were able to knock the door down, and I am very thankful for all the people that helped make it happen.”

2. How does the 2022 team look? How many starters are back, and what do you expect to be your team’s strengths and question marks? “We have eight of 11 back on offense, so we are hoping to play well on that side of the ball right out of the gate. On defense we have three or four back, so there are a lot of holes to fill, and we are going to have to have some kids step up and grow up fast.”

3. You had a couple of high-profile players who graduated in DeNorris Goodwin and E.J. Lightsey. Goodwin got 30 carries in the state championship game. Lightsey got 11 and was the leading tackler. Are there a couple of players that might try to fill the roles of go-to player on offense and ringleader on defense? “On offense, Sylon Davis is back at fullback. He is a strong runner and a good blocker. Sultan Cooper, our quarterback, is back and ready to have a good season. The halfback spot will be more of a committee-type deal. We have a bunch of backs that we will roll in and out, and hopefully somebody will step up. On defense, Daniel James is a guy that we feel like can have that same E.J. Lightsey type of production. He was an all-state player last year, and he is really quick and strong. We are expecting big things from him this year.”

4. Class 2A will be much different this season. There will be six private schools coming up from Class A, including Eagle’s Landing Christian and Fellowship Christian. How do you feel about how the dust settled in reclassification? “In addition to the private schools, half of the AAA final four has moved down in Pierce and Appling and two other AAA region champions as well in Thomson and Rockmart. It is sure to be a competitive class, and we understand that if we want to be around in the end, we have to focus on us and make sure that we are the best team that we can be and then we will see where that stacks up. Whoever wins the championship on Dec. 9 will have definitely earned it.”

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