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Flowery Branch has a history of fourth-quarter rallies

POSTED: November 18, 2011 9:34 a.m.
Scott Rogers/

Flowery Branch High's Casey Osborne hauls in a pass against Madison County's T.J. Skelton during the Falcons' 56-7 win over the Red Raiders in August at The Branch.

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FLOWERY BRANCH — Flowery Branch coach Lee Shaw remembers that first big win. It was in the first round of the playoffs in 2005 against a dominant Elbert County program.

Assistant coach Andy Mahaffey was a receiver on that team.

"Elbert County was a loaded No. 3 seed," Mahaffey remembers.

The Falcons had never been to the playoffs or even had a winning season in their short history until then, and found themselves down, 9-3, late in the fourth quarter.

Then quarterback Jaybo Shaw, now the senior signal caller at Georgia Southern, fired a touchdown pass to Devin Reed, the defense held in the last few minutes and the Falcons stayed alive all the way to the quarterfinals.

"That senior class did amazing things that year and I was lucky to be a part of it," Jaybo Shaw said. "That senior group laid the foundation that this is how it’s going to be, to uphold the tradition and make it to the playoffs every year."

The players haven’t stopped believing since, and the team has been back to the playoffs every season.

"It’s believing," coach Shaw said. "That’s what’s been so special around here. We continue to win big games because we never give up."

It’s been the case throughout the years, something the program’s only head coach has dubbed ‘Branch Boy Magic.’

In 2008 it was Connor Shaw, now the starting quarterback at South Carolina, to Robby Boudreau in the corner of the end zone with time running out to rally for a win over Ridgeland in the second round. The Falcons went on to reach the final before falling to Cairo in the Georgia Dome.

Casey Osborne was a freshman back-up safety on that team.

"It was big," Osborne said. "Just to be a part of the ride."

Three years later Osborne etched his name in Falcons lore in quite possibly the most dramatic win for the program — last Friday’s 42-39 win over Johns Creek in the first round of the playoffs.

This time it was Kanler Coker to Osborne with two seconds left, a Hail Mary pass that numerous players deflected and the senior wide receiver didn’t even see; he felt the ball and grabbed it as it landed on him while he lay on the ground in the end zone.

"That was definitely the biggest play I’ve ever made," Osborne said. "Although it wasn’t just me."

It was Coker to Osborne, and, just like Jaybo Shaw to Reed or Connor Shaw to Boudreau, it’s a play that won’t be soon forgotten.

It’s another appearance of ‘Branch Boy Magic,’ but it’s really just the team being ready for the situation.

"It’s a play that’s called a Hail Mary for a reason, you’re sending up a prayer," coach Shaw said. "But they felt like they could do it.

"Preparation met opportunity."

It hasn’t hurt that the Flowery Branch program has had a number of top-notch quarterbacks to make those crunch-time decisions and get the ball to their athletic receivers.

"It helps with Kanler as a quarterback; he can make the throws," Osborne said. "We’ve had good quarterbacks."

It was two-year starting quarterback Connor Shaw who delivered one of the program’s biggest wins in 2009, converting two fourth and long situations on passes to Boudreau in the final minutes to rally past Carver-Columbus 35-33 and advance to the semifinals.

"With all of the Division I talent they had, we figured we had beaten the No. 1 team in the state," coach Shaw said.

Coker displayed that resolve in the final drive at Johns Creek, marching his team down the field in just over 30 seconds.

The senior, in his first year at Flowery Branch, has struggled in the past two weeks, throwing five interceptions after throwing just two in the first nine games of the season. But he was perfect when it mattered, allowing Osborne to make the miraculous catch.

And just like the previous times that the Falcons have pulled a win from near-certain defeat, it’s given the team new life and a chance to go further into the playoffs.

They will play a team that is also coming off an unlikely win.

Thomas County Central came to Statesboro and upset the Blue Devils 31-28 last week in the second overtime, delivering Flowery Branch an unexpected home game.

"We were expecting to be on the road," Osborne said. "But it should give us momentum having the home crowd."

It means that the ‘road warriors’ slogan is no longer applicable, but the magic is still there.

"We just play with a lot of heart," Osborne said. "I would lay it on the line for anybody else."

He may have been a small piece in 2008, but this season the team leader in receptions is a key component on yet another Falcons team with the ability to be explosive and make the unlikely comeback.

"He does a great job of getting everybody focused, that it’s how you respond that matters," said Jaybo Shaw about his father and former coach. "They just go with that mentality that they’re going to come out with the win."

In 2011, there’s a growing pile of evidence proving that the Falcons have kept up that mentality that started in 2005.

"It’s a belief that it’s never over," coach Shaw said.

And it is that belief that has Flowery Branch still in the hunt for a state title, six years after that first incredible playoff win.



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