It took Richmond Hill High School 17 years to be able host a playoff game, and the Wildcats surged forward off of two Nick Fitzgerald rushing touchdowns for a 13-7 victory over Thomas County Central.
Now, the Wildcats (10-1) head to Warner Robins (10-1), ranked No. 6 in Class AAAAA and the top seed from Region 2-AAAAA, for the second round of the state Class AAAAA playoffs.
Last year, the Wildcats played at the Demons’ home field in the opening round of the playoffs and led until a late field goal gave Warner Robins the 17-15 win.
Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Check the school’s website for more information on a team sendoff.
But round two of the state playoffs was far from anyone’s mind last week, as Richmond Hill picked up its first postseason win since 1996.
“It’s an emotional victory. I hasn’t totally sunk in yet, but I just want to thank the community and the school system and administration for supporting this program and what we are trying to accomplish,” Richmond Hill coach Lyman Guy said.
Led Fitzgerald, the RHHS rushing attack, won the day. Fitzgerald had 142 yards on the ground.
“I was able to get some good runs because I had some great blocks up front and we came up with some great defensive plays,” Fitzgerald said. “I was able score touchdowns because others did their job. It’s about the team. This win feels great, most of us were babies or had just been born last time we hosted a playoff game.”
Richmond Hill was hosting its first playoff game since 1996.
Thomas County Central was without one of the best players in South Georgia, quarterback Adam Choice. Choice, a Clemson commit who has gained 1,500 yards rushing this season and has more than 5,000 rushing yards in his career, could only watch his team against Richmond Hill wearing a shoulder sling.
Backup Deondre Cooksey did an admirable job in Choice’s place, running for 95 yards on 28 carries.
Fitzgerald, who is headed to Mississippi State, resolved at halftime that the Wildcats season wasn’t going to end.
After gaining only 18 yards on 11 carries in the first half, he scored on a 70-yard run, set-up by Stephan Williamson’s interception, and added a 27-yard pass play to Byron Vick on a later drive that ended in a second TD run from Fitzgerald.
Thomas County Central forced a Richmond Hill punt late in the game to get the ball and Cooksey made one last attempt to pick up a fourth down but A.J. Vandergrift hit him shy of the first down and the Wildcats got the ball back.
“This is proof that a program can be built here. We have to continue to have player development and work hard in the weight room but hard work pays off. The Lord has blessed us,” Guy said.