Posted: Thursday, August 15th 2013 at 9:36am
Football 2013: Falcons, Griffin hungry for more success
By Morgan Lee Editor
FLOWERY BRANCH: NEED TO KNOW
TEAM COLORS: Black, Red and White
CURRENT REGION: 8-AAAAA
HEAD COACH/RECORD AT SCHOOL: Chris Griffin, second season, 8-3
2012 RECORD/ ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 8-3, Region 8-AAAAA champion, first round Class AAAAA playoffs
KEY LOSSES: RB Justin Curry, WR/CB Darius Curry, WR Jamaad Stephens, LB Jacob Allen, DE Kris Smith, DB Noel Padmore, DL Gabriel Takacs, DB Quinton Mayfield
OFFENSIVE STYLE: Spread option -- the Falcons will keep defenses under constant pressure with their mix of passing and running options. Flowery Branch possesses the type of players who can score quickly or churn out long drives.
KEY OFFENSIVE PLAYERS: Sr. QB Jackson McDonald, Jr. OL Andrew Miles, Sr. OL Rashaan Doleman, Jr. OL Joel Ryder, Sr. WR Cameron Davis, Sr. WR Davante King, Fr. RB Jeremiah Goss
DEFENSIVE STYLE: 3-4/4-3 -- The Falcons will still bring pressure and attack from a number of angles and will feature one less down lineman versus spread attacks.
KEY DEFENSIVE PLAYERS: Sr. DE Thor Smith, Sr. DE Gabe Argueta, Jr. NT Grant Simonds, Sr. LB Kellen Clark, Sr. LB Davante King, Sr. CB Jeremy James, So. CB Cortez Davis
SPECIAL TEAMS: Jr. PK Will Filson; punting duties still undetermined as of publication time.
STRENGTH: Line of scrimmage -- the Falcons feature a physically imposing and experienced offensive and defensive line, and the group could pave the way for Flowery Branch's success in 2013. The offensive line will aid another strength, as the Falcons return a starter at quarterback for the first time since 2009 -- when Connor Shaw was signal caller.
QUESTION: Linebacker and running back -- Flowery Branch lost its entire linebacker corps, while the move of Justin Curry to Arkansas leaves the Falcons with plenty of yards and touchdowns to make up for. There is talent at both spots, but it will have to prove itself.
KEY GAMES: Opening against a state power like Northside will be a huge measuring stick, while October brings games against Apalachee (Oct. 4), Heritage (Oct. 18) and Clarke Central (Oct. 25) -- contests the Falcons won by an average margin of 9.6 points in 2012. The regular season finale will be the big one -- again -- however, as Flowery Branch travels to face rival Gainesville. Last year the battle decided the Region 8-AAAAA crown -- on a two-point conversion.
TRENDING:The Falcons were disappointed not to make a deep playoff run again in 2012 but were heartened by winning their first solo region championship. Yet Flowery Branch has developed high standards in a short period, reaching the state playoffs in eight straight seasons -- in 11 years of playing varsity football -- and will want considerably more than eight wins in 2013.
Aug. 30 at Northside, Warner Robins
Sept. 6 vs. West Forsyth
Sept. 13 vs. Cedar Shoals
Sept. 20 at Loganville
Sept. 27 vs. Salem
Oct. 4 vs. Apalachee
Oct. 11 at Winder-Barrow
Oct. 18 at Heritage, Conyers
Oct. 25 vs. Clarke Central
Nov. 8 at Gainesville
FLOWERY BRANCH -- Most first-year head coaches would have been thrilled with the type of campaign Chris Griffin experienced in his first season in charge of Flowery Branch.
Instead, Griffin has spent the offseason letting his Falcons know that he wants more -- even after coaching Flowery Branch to its first solo region championship, a feat that was upended by a first-round playoff loss the next week.
“It was a fun year; we played well and we made a good run. But it was disappointing losing in the first round,” Griffin said. “It was nice to get that region championship, but we have much higher goals and expectations this year.”
Like Griffin, the Falcons’ players have used last season’s finish as a motivating factor -- not that the 2013 Flowery Branch squad needs much motivating.
Making things even more fun is the fact that the Falcons return a number of standout players -- including a starting quarterback for the first time since Connor Shaw played for Flowery Branch 2008-09.
Senior Jackson McDonald (1,627 yards passing, 819 yards rushing, 32 total TDs in 2012) is a year more experienced and a year bigger, having added both height and weight in the offseason. And Griffin is excited about the signal-caller’s potential.
“He’s much more comfortable,” Griffin said of McDonald. “A year ago he was just trying to learn the offense. This year he’s more comfortable and a leader, and we’re building offense around him.”
That construction will be protected by a massive and experienced front line, including three returning offensive linemen -- Andrew Miles, Rashaan Doleman and Joel Ryder.
McDonald will also have some talented and versatile receiving options in Cameron Davis (leading returning receiver with 34 catches for 349 yards and 3 TDs in 2012), Davante King, Justin Thompson and A’lencio Graham.
The biggest question is at running back, however, where several players are vying to replace standout Justin Curry (1,267 yards, 13 TDs in 2012), who moved, along with his father and assistant coach Felix, to Arkansas (to be closer to his older brothers, who both play for Oklahoma St.).
Freshman Jeremiah Goss has impressed early in camp, while Cameron Davis could also see time at the position, along with Jamond Randolph.
With Felix Curry gone, Griffin found the perfect replacement for the team’s defensive coordinator position: himself.
Griffin filled the role successfully for much of the past decade and was glad to slide back into the day-to-day X’s and O’s aspect of the job.
“I feel back at home; it’s been fun,” Griffin said. “We’re going to be doing a lot of same things we did a couple years back. And the guys that played when I was coordinator have picked it up quickly.”
That includes standouts like defensive end Thor Smith, who is the team’s leading returning tackler, including 19 tackles for loss in 2012. He is part of what should be a strong front, along with senior defensive end Gabe Argueta and tackle Grant Simonds -- who has moved from offensive line and impressed.
Beyond that, however, the Falcons must replace their entire linebacker corps, as well their top five leading tacklers.
Kellen Clark and King were back-ups at linebacker last season and will be looked to for big things in 2013.
Similarly, the secondary was hit by graduation, returning just four-year starter Jeremy James at cornerback. Cortez David, Isaac Mize, Cooper Harrison and Cameron Davis will all have chances to make themselves starters in the backfield.
“We’re having to rebound a little on defense,” Griffin said. “But I'm ready to get out there and hit somebody else and see what truly is the potential of this team.”
If the Falcons can improve on 2012, that potential is high indeed.
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