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HS football: Flowery Branch expects to keep rolling with new coach

POSTED: August 18, 2012 11:00 p.m.

It’s all anybody wants to talk about, but it’s also not until November.

"Everybody wants to talk about Gainesville, but we have nine games before then," said Flowery Branch coach Chris Griffin, who admitted that it will be the resumption of a great county rivalry when it finally occurs.

But, before the Falcons have the chance to possibly play in yet another pivotal game with Gainesville in the last week of the season, familiar region foes and new faces await.

Because for a program that had known only one head football coach for its first decade of existence, this past offseason was quite a shake-up.

Longtime Flowery Branch coach Lee Shaw is now coaching at Rabun County, offensive coordinator Benji Harrison is at Jackson County, and defensive coordinator Griffin has taken the reins of one of the most successful programs in the area.

While there might be a few differences from the Shaw years, Griffin plans to keep the Falcons — who advanced to the state quarterfinals last season — as one of the top teams in not just the region, but the state.

And his team has the potential to do just that — especially on defense.

"Potentially this could be as good (at defense) as we’ve ever had," Griffin said. "But, as I tell the players, potential has never won a game."

Offense

A number of big names are gone from an offense that averaged 44 points scored per game last season, including quarterback Kanler Coker, running back Jeremy Haley and top wide receivers CJ Curry and Jeremy Osborne.

Griffin said that, while this year’s crop of offensive players may not exactly fill the shoes of last season’s stars, there’s still plenty of talent to go around, starting on the offensive line with college prospect and senior Chandler Bridges.

At quarterback, Griffin said McDonald, a more advanced runner than passer knows the system as well as anyone, but it’s yet to be seen how he will fare in pressure situations in regular-season games.

He’ll have another first-time offensive starter to hand the ball to in Quinton Mayfield, who has lately emerged as the top choice amongst a stable of potential running backs after spending the year on defense in 2011.

There’s more starting experience at the wide receiver spot, where 2011 starters Jamaad Stephens and Cris Dilidili, who accounted for a combined 725 receiving yards and seven scores, return. They are joined by Darius Curry, also a star defensive back, Cameron Davis, East Hall’s starting quarterback last season, and Devonte King.

Defense

While Griffin said the unit has the potential to be the best in program history, the one weakness is depth.

"Our starters are as good as we’ve had in a long time," the coach said, "But there’s very little depth, especially at linebacker."

The starting linebacking corps has a wealth of talent though, with last season’s leading tackler in senior Jacob
Allen and Greater Atlanta Christian transfer Kris Smith.

The linebackers should have plenty of space within which to operate behind West Hall transfer Dexter Jackson at nose tackle, a player Griffin said could really cause problems for the opposing offense.

In the defensive backfield, returning starters Darius Curry and Noel Padmore, two high-level Division-I prospects, return to their cornerback spots.

Special teams

Kicker Leo Manzo graduated, but Flowery Branch returns punter Lucas Arnett, who is an option for the kicking duties along with Alejandro Montoya and Jesus Alvarado.

Outlook

Gainesville is the only new face in Region 8-AAAAA, formerly 8-AAAA, a region that Flowery Branch won a share of, and would have won outright with a win over Clarke Central last season. The Gladiators are the only region team the Falcons have yet to beat.

Now the Red Elephants and Gladiators will stand in the way of the Falcons’ chances at a region title, along with a few other talented opponents. Still, the Falcons can match up with any other favorite in the region, meaning the region title is very much up in the air.

 


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