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Flowery Branch looking to stay perfect

Falcons will face Clarke Central on Nov. 5 for Region 8-AAAA title

POSTED: October 28, 2010 10:00 p.m.

Flowery Branch coach Lee Shaw

The Falcons face Salem on Friday night in Conyers

Scott Rogers/The Times

Flowery Branch's Casey Osborne runs for yardage after the catch earlier this season against Apalachee.

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Regardless of what happens tonight when Flowery Branch travels to Conyers to play Salem (4-5, 4-5 Region 8-AAAA), the Falcons (8-0, 8-0) have already clinched a playoff spot and will be playing Clarke Central (8-0, 8-0) for the region championship on Nov. 5 at Falcon Field.

While this game may be meaningless in terms of the standings, Falcons coach Lee Shaw believes his team still has an incentive to win.

“They understand they’ve got something special riding in the palm of their hand as far as a chance to be 9-0 going into a region championship game with 10-0 just looking at them,” he said. “So they want to make sure they finish the job this week.”

Though the Falcons are one week away from playing for what would be their first region championship in the program’s nine-year history, Shaw and the Falcons aren’t concerned with ending the regular season as 8-AAAA’s best.

“A state championship is always the goal,” said Falcons quarterback Austin Brown, who leads the area in completions (123), passing yards (1,843) and touchdowns (20) while throwing no interceptions in 188 passing attempts. No other area quarterback has attempted even 160 passes.

It might not be a coincidence the Falcons haven’t won a region title when hearing Shaw’s philosophy on the season.

“Players may be talking about it in the locker room, or in school, but we don’t talk about it (as a team),” Shaw said.

“We’ve never made a big deal of it. Maybe that’s a good thing, maybe that’s a bad thing. We talk about a state championship. I think, to be honest, the region championship is not the pinnacle for us.

“I’ve seen schools try to go after a region championship and they lose in the first or second round in an upset. I think that’s why our guys have played so well in the playoffs (in the past). Being on the road, it doesn’t’ matter. We build up that momentum to try to get the ring. A region championship is great, but if we don’t have one, that doesn’t mean we can’t play for a state championship, and we’ve proven that.”

As a member of 7-AAA, the Falcons qualified for the state playoffs in each of the past five seasons, advancing to the finals in 2008, the semifinals in 2009 and the quarterfinals in 2006.

Though they know they’re in the playoffs, the Falcons aren’t overlooking Salem.

“We’ve been watching film all week and we know they have the athletes to win,” Brown said. “They’ve knocked some big teams of in the region already, and we know we have to take things one game at a time.”

The Seminoles’ four wins this season were over Madison County, Habersham Central, Winder-Barrow and Cedar Shoals.

They were competitive in most of their losses — save Clarke Central, which beat them 42-6 — and staying within 17 points of their opponent in four losses.

Shaw said Salem employs the method of operation of most of the 8-AAAA competition the Falcons have faced.

“They can run,” he said. “They’re dangerous, and if you overlook a team like that, you’ll come back with a defeat. We’ve been harping that all week.”

Shaw expects the Seminoles to use their speed to try and outscore them.

With the exception of Apalachee, which burned them for 500 rushing yards and 35 points — the most Flowery Branch has given up all season — the Falcons have been effective at, as Shaw says, “keeping speed in a box.” In five of their wins, they allowed seven points or less and have three shutouts.

Offensively, the Falcons will execute a balanced attack and “take what they give us,” Shaw said. Aside from Brown leading the area in every major passing category, the Falcons also have the area’s second leading rusher in Jeremy Haley (1,091 yards, 14 touchdowns).

Logan Conley leads the area with 43 receptions, 759 yards and nine touchdowns.

“It’s all about us taking care of us, and that will give us a chance to win.”



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