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High school football notebook: Flowery Branch is No. 3 seed after drawing

Falcons will travel to Region 7-AAAA Johns Creek to start the state playoffs

POSTED: November 5, 2011 2:13 p.m.

In less than 24 hours, Flowery Branch went from being on the verge of its first region title to preparing for a road trip to start the state playoffs.

Saturday morning at Loganville High, Heritage (9-1) drew the top seed out of a hat in accordance with Region 8-AAAA tiebreaker rules.

With Clarke Central (9-1) holding the head-to-head tiebreaker over Flowery Branch (9-1) after a 38-35 win at Billy Henderson Stadium in Athens on Friday night, the Gladiators were slotted as the No. 2 seed and the Falcons took third.

Flowery Branch will travel to Region 7-AAAA No. 2 seed John's Creek (9-1) on Friday to open the state playoffs.

The Johns Creek Gladiators lost only to Chattahoochee (19-16 in overtime) in the regular season, compiling 32 points scored per game and allowing an average of 11 points on defense.

The Falcons weren't planning to go on the road after entering Friday's game against Clarke Central at 9-0 and with a one-game lead in the region standings, but coach Lee Shaw knew it was a possibility.

"If you don't take care of your business," Shaw said, "this is what happens."

It was an unexpected turn of events for what was the No. 3-ranked team in the state heading in to the match-up with Clarke Central, but it's not unfamiliar territory.

"We've been Road Warriors before," Shaw said. "I believe we were a No. 3 seed when we went all the way to the Dome (falling to Cairo 28-14 in the Class AAA state championship game in 2008), so we'll go to work."

Flowery Branch was also the No. 3 seed in 2009 after falling to Gainesville in the last week of the regular season with the region championship on the line.

The Falcons won three straight playoff games on the road that season before falling to Gainesville again in the state semifinals.

In the last three years, the Falcons are 7-2 in road playoff games while going 1-0 at home and 0-1 at the Georgia Dome.

Heritage will play No. 4 seed Rome (7-3) and Clarke Central will host No. 3 Lambert (8-2). The Patriots are the fifth different team to win the Region 8-AAAA title in the last five seasons. All three of this year's top seeds were also in the playoffs last year.

Fourth seed Habersham Central (6-4) in Region 8-AAAA is making its first state appearance since 2007 and will play Region 7-AAAA champions Chattahoochee (9-1), the defending Class AAAA state champs.

BIG, BAD RED: The Gainesville offense gets a lot of attention - and for good reason.

The Red Elephants have scored at least 40 points in each game during their nine-game winning streak, averaging more than 49 points per contest since their season-opening loss to Buford.

Not to be overshadowed, the Gainesville defense isn't just pulling its weight. It's dominating opponents in similar fashion.

When Stephens County's Chaz Thornton broke loose on an 81-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter Friday night at City Park, it was the first time a Gainesville opponent had scored in 11 quarters, going back to the first half of Monroe Area game on Oct. 14.

Since then, the Red Elephants (9-1, No. 1 Region 8-AAA) posted back-to-back shutouts, and other than Thornton's long run, kept a dangerous Stephens County offense under wraps in a 62-7 win.

In the last three games, Gainesville is yielding an average of just 102.3 yards of total offense, and with 131 yards, Stephens County is only opponent in that span to top 90 yards.

The Red Elephants will open the playoffs at home against Dalton on Friday.

BACKS GO OUT WITH A BANG: Friday was the end of the season for the majority of area teams, and the end of some well-decorated high school careers for some local standout athletes.

North Hall's Imani Cross, who has verbally committed to Tennessee, couldn't lift the Trojans into the postseason, but did his part with 158 rushing yards on 25 carries in a losing effort at Monroe Area.

The 230-pound back ends his season with more than 1,800 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns.

East Hall also fell short in a region play-in game, ending the high school career of Jamond Witt, who rushed for over 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons for the Vikings.

After 111 yards on 21 carries in a 27-7 loss to Elbert County, Witt will finish the year with close to 1,200 rushing yards.

Lumpkin County's Ian McIntosh, who was closing in 1,000 yards before Friday's game, helped lead the Indians to a season-ending 31-21 win over West Hall with two touchdowns on offense and a kickoff return for a score.

Times sports editor Brent Holloway contributed to this report.



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