But after the Purple Hurricanes retook the lead at the end of the first quarter, Adairsville could never answer the scoring of the quick strike hosts from Fitzgerald.
The Tigers turned the ball over on downs on their first two possessions of the second quarter, allowing the Hurricanes to stretch a 12-7 lead into a 26-7 advantage in less than two minutes. That brief stretch allowed Fitzgerald to advance in the state Class AA playoffs with a 46-13 victory Friday night at Jaycee Stadium.
The game started out looking as if it might be a blowout. The Hurricanes drove 74 yards on their opening possession, which was capped off by a 14-yard touchdown run from Tolerance Shepherd. After a bad snap on the extra point attempt, Fitzgerald led 6-0.
Adairsville wasted no time striking back. In eight plays, the Tigers moved the ball 71 yards, with the last seven coming on a Mike Upshaw touchdown run. Adairsville was able to convert its extra point and went ahead 7-6.
It marked the first time the Hurricanes had trailed this postseason, and it would only last five minutes as Fitzgerald orchestrated an 11-play, 85-yard drive, which ended on a Kaleb Nobles quarterback sneak from inches outside of the Adairsville goal line. The Hurricanes once again failed to convert, this time on a two-point conversion, but Fitzgerald still held a 12-7 lead.
The Tigers would drive down to the Hurricanes' 12-yard line on their ensuing drive, where they faced a fourth down. Instead of trying for a field goal, Adairsville elected to try to get the two yards they lacked, but were unable to gain anything on an option play, giving Fitzgerald the ball on their own 12.
Shepherd made sure they would pay for it.
On the very first play following the Tigers' turnover on downs, Shepherd took the ball around the outside and 88 yards down the field for his second touchdown of the game. Fred Hooks ran the ball in on the two-point conversion to put the Hurricanes up by 13.
Adairsville would once again go for it on fourth down, this time by way of a fake punt with eight yards to go. The Tigers would come up six yards short, giving the ball to Fitzgerald with a short field to work with.
On the first play of the drive Nobles would hit Shepherd for a 46-yard touchdown pass, extending the Hurricane lead to 26-7. Shepherd would add his fourth touchdown of the half on Fitzgerald's next possession, to give them a 32-7 lead late in the half.
Adairsville would get one more chance before the end of the half after Zach Knight recovered a fumble on the Hurricanes' 35-yard line. The Tigers were unable to do anything with it though, as they came up short on yet another fourth down as time expired in the half.
After Adairsville was unable to do anything with its first possession of the second half, the Tigers were able to pin Fitzgerald deep in their own territory, forcing the Hurricanes to start at their own 6. It would take Fitzgerald only 11 plays to march 94 yards down the field, as Scottie Griffin scored from five yards out to put the game out of reach at 39-7.
Andrew Ward wasn't ready to give up just yet though, as he returned the ensuing Hurricane kickoff to the Fitzgerald 24. A facemask penalty moved the ball up to the 14. Two plays later Cody Kremer would hit Austin Harrell for a 13-yard touchdown pass.
It would take the Hurricanes only three plays to strike back though as Hooks found the end zone from 33 yards out to bring the game to its final score of 46-13.
Kremer completed six passes for 104 yards. Upshaw caught half of those passes, gaining 72 yards from his catches. He also rushed for 77 yards on 18 carries.
Shepherd lead the Fitzgerald offense, rushing for 237 yards on 14 carries while catching two passes for 67 yards. He scored three times on the ground and once through the air. Hooks was second on the team in rushing, picking up 68 yards. He added 47 yards on four catches as well. Nobles completed 8 of 9 passes for 161 yards and accounted for two scores, once through the air and once on the ground.
Adairsville's season comes to an end with a 10-2 record, their best season since going 11-2 in 2001. The Tigers, a senior-laden team, defeated Banks County 21-3 in the first round of the playoffs. They led 7-3 at halftime of that game before scoring twice in the third quarter to help seal the win. That sort of response did not happen this time around for Adairsville, which forged a reputation with its strong second half play throughout the year.
With the win, Fitzgerald moves on to play Carver-Columbus in the Class AA quarterfinals.
-- Bren Shepard of The Tifton Gazette contributed to this article.