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Falcons face No. 4 Kell

Second round playoff matchup in Marietta

POSTED: November 18, 2010 5:02 p.m.

Interview with Flowery Branch players

Flowery Branch's Jacob Allen and Logan Conley discuss the upcoming playoff game with Kell.

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SARA GUEVARA | The Times/

Quarterback Austin Brown runs a play Wednesday during football practice at Flowery Branch High School. Flowery Branch plays Kell High School Friday in the second round of the Class AAAA state playoffs.

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FLOWERY BRANCH — It’s been well documented Flowery Branch is no stranger to playoff success on the road. In 2008 and 2009, the Falcons advanced to the Class AAA finals and semifinals, respectively, playing nothing but away games.

After hosting and soundly defeating Southwest Dekalb 28-6 last week in the first round of the Class AAAA playoffs, Class AAAA’s eighth-ranked Falcons (10-1) find themselves back on the road as Region 8’s No. 2 seed. They’ll play fourth-ranked Kell (11-0), the 1 seed from Region 5, which advanced to the second round with a 49-7 win over South Forsyth.

Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. Friday at C.J. Kell Stadium.

“We’ve never made a big deal of being on the road,” Falcons coach Lee Shaw said. “We have a tremendous fan base that follows us where we go, and the kids like going on the road and seeing new schools and playing new teams. We just want to win so we can experience another week.”

The Falcons will play a Longhorns program that is, like Flowery Branch, relatively new. Flowery Branch opened in 2002 and Kell opened the following year. The Longhorns are in the midst of a historic run, having finished the regular season 10-0 for the first time. With a win Friday, Kell will advance to the quarterfinals for the first time.

The last two years, under three-year coach Derek Cook, the Longhorns were eliminated in the first round.

This year, however, there’s a different determination in the Kell locker room inspired by factors beyond the game of football. The Longhorns have played the 2010 season having to overcome a number of tragedies.

A player on the 2009 Kell baseball team, whom many current football players were close to, committed suicide before the Longhorns’ fourth game of the season. The very next week, one of Cook’s former players from his offensive coordinator years at South Cobb, Kenny McKinley of the Denver Broncos, committed suicide in a highly publicized tragedy.

Another player’s father passed away and several coaches had deaths in the family.

“Tragedy has kept us humbled,” said Cook of the Longhorns’ 11-game win streak. “The only thing that has saved us from depression is a great season. Football has been a nice diversion from all the things that have happened and has brought us together as a team. Everyone saw a vulnerable side of each other.”

On the field, the Longhorns have produced with a shotgun spread offense similar to that of the Falcons. Cook said the main difference between the two offenses is Kell sets up the pass with the run, while Flowery Branch does the opposite. The Longhorns line up with two running backs in the backfield — the Falcons use one — and, along with quarterback Austin Petrik, they have three running backs (Brian Randolph, Jordan Chambers and Chris Gaines) to execute the offense.

Falcons linebacker Jacob Allen, who has 108 tackles and three sacks, hopes practicing against Flowery Branch’s spread offense all season has prepared them for this week’s opponent.

“We know our offense very fundamentally and we know what they run,” the sophomore said. “We’ve gone against it since spring and I think that gives us an advantage for our defense versus (Kell’s) offense.”

The Falcons’ rebounded from a 21-0 shutout loss to Clarke Central in Week 11 with four scores and more than 300 yards of offense last week against the Panthers.

While Flowery Branch’s offense appeared to get back on track, Cook believes it was never derailed.

“Clarke Central didn’t stop them,” he said. “They went up and down the field on them, they just stalled out. We’ve got to try and slow them down and find a way to limit the big plays. We’re hoping they’ll make some mistakes, we’ll get turnovers and sacks, or whatever it takes to slow them down.”

Falcons leading receiver Logan Conley — the junior has 1,026 yards and 12 touchdowns on 54 catches — said the Longhorns line their defense up in a 4-3 and move the safety into a 4-4 just before the ball is snapped.
He said the Falcons won’t change up their game plan.

“We’re going to do the same things we do every week,” he said. “Run the ball with Jeremy (Haley) and throw it like we always do.”

As for the familiar circumstance of playing on the road in an elimination game, Conley believes the team will be focused.

“There’s added pressure always,” he said. “But it’s just another game, so we have fun playing and having a good time.

“It’s just a game.”



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