Posted: Saturday, October 27th 2012 at 2:09am
Falcons storm to seventh straight, knock out Glads, 24-13
By Morgan Lee Editor
Flowery Branch's Justin Curry (1) tries to break through a tackle of a Clarke Central defender on Friday in the Falcons' 24-13 defeat of the Gladiators in Athens. / photo: Amy Kellogg
ATHENS -- Does anyone even remember when Flowery Branch was 0-2? Falcons coach Chris Griffin does; in fact he points to that start as big reason why the Falcons are now 7-2.
“Those struggles early on actually showed us what we needed to work on and helped us to get better,” Griffin said.
Flowery Branch continued to distance itself from their uneven start with yet another impressive win on Friday, coming from behind for the second straight week, while pulling away from Clarke Central 24-13 in Athens.
The win was the Falcons’ first ever over the Gladiators and set up a titanic season-ending clash with Gainesville in Flowery Branch for the Region 8-AAAAA title.
“This was a big win for the program and to do it on the road against a quality team was just huge for this team,” Griffin said. “It really showed the maturity and tough mentality this team has developed.”
Tenacity was the key word from the start for Flowery Branch, as it stared down Clarke Central on two goal line stands in the first quarter, holding the Gladiators to field goals after Clarke Central twice drove to the Falcons 1-yard line. And while Flowery Branch trailed 6-0 after two field goals, the stonewalling efforts of its defense set the tone and allowed the Falcons offense to pull back into the contest -- which it did 21 second half points.
“The defense played the best game it has all year,” Griffin said. “That was a big statement for those guys.”
For the game, the Falcons held the Gladiators’ potent attack to just 151 yards and one touchdown – a four-yard touchdown pass from Cameron Johnson to Baylor Ward late in the third quarter that hauled the hosts in front at 13-10. But the score only temporarily stunted Flowery Branch, which put up 172 of its 261 yards in the second half, including three rushing touchdowns to put the game out of reach.
Justin Curry got things going in the third quarter, exploding for a 24-yard touchdown that yielded the Falcons first lead of the game, 10-6 -- Flowery Branch’s only points in a defensive first half came on a 34-yard Will Filson Field goal. Curry sparked the Falcons offense throughout, rushing for 141 yards on 23 carries, while quarterback Jackson McDonald added 41 yards rushing and 55 yards passing with a touchdown.
Perhaps Curry’s most important run came early in the fourth quarter when the sophomore plowed his way into the Clarke Central end zone on fourth-and-goal from the three. The gutsy call -- which was aided by a powerful surge from the Falcons offensive line -- pushed the Falcons ahead for good at 17-13 with 10:28 left in the game.
Flowery Branch gave itself some breathing room with 6:23 left to play when McDonald found Jamaad Stephens for a 10-yard touchdown pass and an 11-point lead the Falcons never came close to losing -- not with the type of defense the Falcons’ were playing.
Running back Jalani Payne finished with 70 yards in 25 carries -- 2.8 yards per rush -- to lead the Gladiators.
Now the Falcons can take a week to rest and prepare for the showdown with the Red Elephants.
“We’re exactly where we wanted to be, and it’s a great feeling that all that hard work has paid off for us so far,” Griffin said. “But we don’t want to feel like we’ve accomplished too much yet. We have a lot to play for.”
Flowery Branch can finish no worse than the No. 2 seed in 8-AAAAA.
Clarke Central......6....0....7....0 – 13
CC – Ward 37 field goal, 10:27, 3-0
CC – Ward 24 field goal, 2:50, 6-0
FB – Filson 34 field goal, 11:10, 6-3
FB – J. Curry 24 run (Arnett kick) 6:22, 6-10
CC – Ward 4 pass from Johnson (Ward kick) 3:40, 13-10
FB – Curry 3 run (Arnett kick) 10:28, 13-17
FB – Stephens 10 pass from McDonald (Arnett kick) 6:23, 13-24
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