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Posted: Saturday, August 30th 2014 at 4:12am

And a freshman shall lead them: Lance helps Falcons to opening win

By Morgan Lee Editor
click to enlarge
Flowery Branch quarterback Nick Lance looks downfield in the Falcons' win over Chestatee on Friday in Gainesville. / photo: Shane Nicholson
GAINESVILLE -- Nick Lance didn’t feel many butterflies prior to his first varsity action.

He didn’t have time to get them.

The Flowery Branch freshman found out just two hours before gametime that he was to play in the Falcons’ opener at Chestatee -- and he responded like a varsity veteran, throwing for two touchdowns to help the visitors to a 29-0 shutout of the War Eagles in Gainesville.

“I was kind of worried about not knowing all the plays, but coach Griffin just told me stick to what I knew and I’d be fine,” said Lance, who finished the night 10 of 21 for 169 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. “It just worked out for me.”

Indeed it did, as Lance relied on a veteran offensive line and running back Jeremiah Goss to help shoulder the load in the early going before showing his own impressive talents with a 29-yard scoring strike to Hayden Colee that helped Flowery Branch (1-0) to a 22-0 first half lead.

“He’s a competitor, and I was more than pleased with his performance out there,” said Falcons coach Chris Griffin, who made the late move to insert Lance after an “internal issue” benched starter Jasen Johnson. “We threw a lot on his (Lance’s) back, and he responded. It was a tough decision for us, but it really worked out, and I’m thrilled for him and the team.”

Thanks to the help of players like Goss -- who rushed for a touchdown in the first quarter and caught a short swing pass and turned that into a 60-yard score and a 15-0 second quarter lead en route to a 166 total yards in the night -- Lance found his comfort zone quickly.

“The great thing about the touchdown pass to Jeremiah was that it was his third read on the play,” Griffin said. “If you’ve got a freshman who can go through his progressions like that, that’s pretty big.”

Cortez Davis also showed his big-time ability in all three phases of the game, scampering for a 66-yard touchdown in the third quarter – right after picking off a Chestatee pass. He also had an 82-yard punt return for a touchdown negated by a penalty.

“Cortez is a leader for us, and he played big tonight,” Griffin said. “Of course he also muffed one punt, and he knows we can’t have that. But we also knew he’d do big things for us.”

Errors played a big role for both teams, as the two combined for eight turnovers in the contest – though Chestatee (0-1) could never capitalize on any of the Falcons’ miscues thanks to a Flowery Branch defense that allowed just 91 total yards -- including eight plays that netted lost yardage. Marvin Rosario paced the War Eagles with 69 yards on 12 carries.

“Both teams made some mistakes tonight, but they’re a good football team, and I think you’ll see that as the season plays out,” Griffin said of the War Eagles. “They took away a lot of things we wanted to do – we had to throw the ball more than I wanted to tonight.”

Regardless, the Falcons still managed 309 total yards, including 144 of that on the ground – even if it did take the Falcons a little while to get going.

It was a fourth down conversion that finally sparked the Falcons’ attack.

Lance hit Kyle King for a 10-yard gain on fourth and eight at the War Eagles 31. Seconds later Goss pounded into the end zone from 10 yards -- a quick flip out to Hayden Colee yielding a 2-point conversion and a 8-0 Falcons lead with 2:15 left in the first quarter.

Flowery Branch scored on its next two possessions to take control.

Goss made his presence felt again early in the second quarter, catching a short swing pass from Lance and outrunning the War Eagles defense for a 60 yard touchdown and a 15-0 lead.

Just 1:08 later the Falcons owned a 22-0 lead -- Flowery Branch taking advantage of a Chestatee fumble to convert a 29-yard touchdown pass from Lance to Hayden Colee.

The strikes put the War Eagles in a deep hole at the interval -- one that only got deeper in the third quarter when Davis showed off his speed -- first the junior picked off a Chestatee pass to halt the War Eagles’ budding momentum; then he showed off his wheels on offense.

Facing third and 13, Davis entered as a “wildcat” quarterback, called his own number and ripped off a 66-yard touchdown run. Davis broke one tackle and exploded down the right sideline to make it 29-0 with 6:39 left in the first quarter.

Both teams traded blows -- and errors -- for the rest of the contest, combining for six turnovers in the second half. The turnovers helped keep both offenses in neutral, though Flowery Branch had done all the damage it needed.

The Falcons will take next Friday off before traveling to face Lanier on Sept. 12.

Chestatee, meanwhile, will look to bounce back on Sept. 5 at West Hall.

FLOWERY BRANCH...8...14....7....7 -- 29
CHESTATEE................0....0....0....0 -- 0

First Quarter
FB -- Goss 10 run (Colee run) 2:15, 8-0

Second Quarter
FB -- Goss 60 pass from Lance (Filson kick) 11:46, 15-0
FB -- H. Colee 29 pass from Lance (Filson kick) 10:34, 22-0

Third Quarter
FB -- Davis 66 run (Filson kick) 6:39, 29-0
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Gainesville, GA 30501
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