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Flowery Branch falls at Kell, 21-13

Falcons' season ends at 10-2 after second-round Class AAAA loss

POSTED: November 20, 2010 12:00 a.m.
SARA GUEVARA /The Times

Flowery Branch's Jeremy Haley runs the ball into the end zone for a touchdown in the first half of Friday's second round of the Class AAAA state playoffs against Kell.

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MARIETTA — Brian Randolph was all over the field Friday night.

The Kell High star rushed for 210 yards and two touchdowns, helped disrupt Flowery Branch on defense and made a few plays that won't show up on the stat sheet. His efforts led Kell to a 21-13 win over the Falcons in the second round of the Class AAAA state playoffs.

The win sends the No. 4 Longhorns (12-0) to the state quarterfinals for the first time in the school's eight-year history, adding to their season of firsts that include a 10-0 regular season and region championship. As a No. 1 seed from Region 5, Kell will play Statesboro (Region 2 No. 1).

No. 8-ranked Flowery Branch's run comes to an end after beginning as an unranked team entering a new classification. The Falcons (10-2) won their first nine 8-AAAA games and advanced to the second round of the state playoffs as a No. 2 seed after spending their previous nine seasons competing in AAA.

But Randolph wouldn't let the Falcons' ride continue any further.

"It took a lot of teamwork to get this done," said Randolph, a senior running back/linebacker who has committed to Tennessee. "It took a lot of effort from the line and toughness, because Flowery Branch came out hard."

The Falcons' Jeremy Haley nearly matched Randolph, carrying the ball 28 times for 176 yards and both of Flowery Branch's scores.

But Kell's defense kept constant pressure on the Falcons, forcing Flowery Branch to uncharacteristically turn the ball over four times - two interceptions and two fumbles - and keep Flowery Branch at arm's length.

"The speed (of Kell's defense) was great from them," said Haley, a junior. "But I still think we should have had that game."

The Falcons found themselves trailing 21-7 heading into the third quarter when Haley rushed 5 yards for his second score with 11:32 remaining in the game. But when lining up for the extra point, Kell was drawn offsides. The Falcons then decided to go for the 2-point conversion, but failed on an incomplete pass.

"I just kind of felt like it would come down to us getting a score and we were going to win that thing without having to go to overtime," Falcons coach Lee Shaw said. "We had momentum, and every Thursday our kids work the situational of if there is a penalty, we're going to go for two. That's just what we do. But it didn't work."

The Longhorns punted after five plays on their next drive, but Haley fumbled on the Falcons' first play from scrimmage. Two plays later, Randolph fumbled the ball right back to the Falcons.

Both teams punted on their next possessions, with the Falcons getting the ball on their own 25 with 37.7 seconds left and no timeouts. Two plays later, the Longhorns' Nathan Lowman forced the Falcons' final turnover, knocking the ball out of the scrambling quarterback Austin Brown's hands, and recovering on the Falcons 10.

"They made it hard for us to get into a rhythm all night," Shaw said.

Randolph's overall performance played a major role in disrupting the Falcons. His 48-yard scoring run as the first quarter expired gave Kell a 7-0 lead. With 41.8 seconds remaining in the first half, his 40-yard run on third-and-6 gave the Longhorns a 14-7 halftime lead.

Defensively, he hit Falcons receiver Byron Keith as Keith was pulling down an 11-yard reception late in the third quarter, knocking the ball into the hands of Jordan Chambers for Chambers' second interception of the game.

Chambers returned the ball from the Kell 48 to the Falcons' 18. On the next play, Chris Gaines won a sprint to the end zone to give the Longhorns a 21-7 lead.

"I was working on reacting quicker and would see the ball in the air and take a chance," said Gaines, a junior linebacker and running back. "Usually I watch the ball go by, but I took the chances and got some picks and was happy about it."

Despite the overall performance of Randolph, the Falcons kept the game close from start to finish, with their trademark gritty defense and fast-paced offense. Senior linebacker Kevin Fitzgerald intercepted Austin Petrik - it was Petrik's first interception of the season in 153 attempts - to set up Haley's first score, a 3-yard run.

But it was Randolph's play that made the difference. He did the little things, like on the play after running a 60-yard touchdown that was called back late in the third quarter, he hustled down an underthrown pass and batted away from the defender what would have been a sure Falcons interception.

"That kid is amazing," Longhorns coach Derek Cook said. "If he's not the best kid in the state, I want to see the film on who is."

Shaw said the Falcons, who climbed to as high as No. 4 in the rankings, achieved success beyond their means.

"I'm so proud of these guys for beating the odds and the naysayers," Shaw said. "They played for each other and made a great memory for the book of life."

Brown finished the game 11-for-21 passing with 124 yards and carried the ball 10 times for 41 yards. Logan Conley led the Falcons with 62 receiving yards on six catches and Keith had 36 yards on three catches.



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