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Posted: Saturday, November 17th 2012 at 1:31am

Falcons stunned by North Paulding, 63-43

By Jeff Hart Staff
click to enlarge
Flowery Branch's Jamaad Stephens, left, stretches for a pass during the Falcons loss on Friday night in the Class AAAAA playoffs to North Paulding in Flowery Branch. / photo: Brian Oliver
FLOWERY BRANCH – If football fans haven’t heard of Chase Noonan, they will after Friday night. Flowery Branch certainly saw enough of him.

The junior North Paulding quarterback dissected a better-than-the-numbers Flowery Branch defense for over 400 yards of offense in leading the Wolfpack to a stunning 63-43 win over the Falcons in the first round of the Class AAAAA playoffs at Falcons Field.

Noonan opened the game with a 50-yard bomb on the fourth play of the game and then would seal the victory late in the fourth quarter on a 39-yard quarterback draw with 3:47 left in the game for the final score.

Despite playing in its first-ever state post-season game, North Paulding (8-3) looked like a team that had spent its entire existence in high-pressure playoff games because of the coolness-under-fire performance of Noonan.

“He’s a ballplayer,” North Paulding coach Scott Jones said. “You can’t really rattle him. He’s thrown for over 2,200 yards now and has been getting better each game. I think he gave everyone the confidence that we could win this game on that 50-yarder at the beginning. That was a huge play for us.”

After Noonan’s quick strike, the Falcons took their only lead of the game on their first possession when Jackson McDonald connected with Jamaad Stephens on a 5-yard TD pass to cap a 71-yard drive for a 7-6 lead.

The Wolfpack would then take control scoring on all six of their first half possessions and used a 28-point second quarter to take a 42-7 lead into halftime, including two more Noonan TD passes, one with just 31 seconds left in the first half.

Flowery Branch (8-3) was supposed to be the team with the experience and momentum after a history-making win over Gainesville last week to win its first-ever outright Region 8-AAAAA title. The Falcons came into the game having advanced to at least the second round of the playoffs for seven consecutive seasons.

But the Wolfpack had Noonan. He went 14-of-17 for 240 yards and three touchdowns in the first half alone and finished the game 21-of-27 for 321 yards and five touchdowns and ran for another 80 yards and one touchdown that killed a Falcons second half rally.

“He was good. We made some adjustments but he made some plays,” Flowery Branch coach Chris Griffin said. “They executed extremely well in the first half and we didn’t and that was the difference.”

The key in the first half was the North Paulding defense stopped the Falcons on four consecutive possessions to give its offense a chance to pull away for the big lead.

The second half was a total role reversal. Flowery Branch wasted little time in showing it was not going to go quietly when McDonald went 67 yards on the second play of the third quarter to make it 42-13 just 24 seconds into the half.

Two possessions later the Falcons defense forced a safety when Noonan was called for grounding in the end zone and the Falcons offense finished the sequence when Justin Curry capped a short 36-yard drive with a 4-yard touchdown run to make it 42-22.

The Falcons would force another punt and then McDonald would connect on a 46-yard TD pass to Stephens to make it 42-29 with 1:48 left in the third quarter. The game would then turn back to the Wolfpack in a 1:41 span.

McDonald was picked off on a deep pass and it was returned to the Falcons 41 with 10:47 left in the game. Four plays later Darius Curry was injured on a tackle forcing a key fourth down with 9:06 left and he would have to be taken off the field on a stretcher after being attended to for over 20 minutes.

The layoff gave North Paulding time to regroup. The Wolfpack converted on fourth down and two plays later Noonan would connect on a 7-yard TD pass to Matt Mixon to push the lead to 50-29 and Flowery Branch would get no closer than 14 points the rest of the way.

“I think Darius will be fine. They always take precautions but it’s never good when they take you off on a cart,” Griffin said. “We’re disappointed we didn’t win but we didn’t quit and got back in the game. We’ll never know how it would’ve turned out if Darius doesn’t get hurt. But I’m proud of how we fought back and how the seniors kept us going.”

Mixon would finish with seven catches for 134 yards and three TDs. Cornelius Collins provided balance in the ground game for North Paulding with 118 yards and one touchdown on 27 carries.

McDonald followed his Player of the Week performance against Gainesville last week with another solid game going 20-of-26 for 233 yards and two touchdowns passing and pounding out 137 yards rushing on 10 carries.

Justin Curry had a big game with 99 yards rushing and two touchdowns and Stephens finished with 135 yards receiving and two touchdowns and also threw a 48-yard touchdown pass to Cameron Davis in the fourth quarter on a nifty flea-flicker.

North Paulding next will play Tucker, which beat Creekview 42-25 Friday night, in the second round.

N. Paulding.....14….....28......0......21 -- 63
F. Branch.........7..….....0......22…..14 -- 43

First Quarter
NP – C. Collins 50 pass from Noonan (kick failed) 10:44, 6-0
FB – Stephens 5 pass from McDonald (Filson kick) 7:04, 7-6
NP – C. Collins 4 run (Noonan run) 3:23, 14-7

Second Quarter
NP – Bishop 4 run (Preece kick) 11:55, 21-7
NP – Bishop 10 pass from Noonan (Preece kick) 7:40, 28-7
NP – Bishop 15 run (Preece kick) 3:23, 35-7
NP – M. Mixon 33 pass from Noonan (Preece kick) :31, 42-7

Third Quarter
FB – McDonald 67 run (kick failed) 11:36, 42-13
FB – Safety on Noonan, 6:42, 42-15
FB – J. Curry 4 run (Filson kick) 5:40, 42-22
FB – Stephens 46 pass from McDonald (Filson kick) 1:48, 42-29

Fourth Quarter
NP – M. Mixon 7 pass from Noonan (Noonan pass) 8:40, 50-29
FB – J. Curry 2 run (Filson kick) 7:08, 50-36
NP – M. Mixon 11 pass from Noonan (Preece kick) 5:26, 57-36
FB – Davis 48 pass from Stephens (Filson kick) 5:09, 57-43
NP – Noonan 39 run (kick failed) 3:47, 63-43
Associated Categories: Sports News, High School Sports

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