State playoffs tonight
Flowery Branch (11-2) at LaGrange (11-2), 7:30 p.m., Callaway Stadium, LaGrange.
Cairo (12-0) at Carver-Columbus (11-2), 8 p.m., Columbus
State final: Winners play at 5 p.m. Dec. 13 at Georgia Dome
Fitzgerald (11-2) at Buford (13-0), 7:30 p.m., Tom Riden Stadium, Buford.
Calhoun (11-2) at Brooks County (12-1), 7:30 p.m., Quitman
State final: Winners play at 5 p.m. Dec. 12 at Georgia Dome
Another road trip for Flowery Branch High football fans?
Not a problem.
Athletics director Shannon Benton said he has no concerns that a two-hour drive is going to keep the school’s fans from attending tonight’s Class AAA state semifinal football game at LaGrange.
"Walk, bike or drive, people are going to find a way to be there," Benton said. "We have a great following for our football team here at Flowery Branch."
Falcon fans came out in force for the team’s first three state playoff games, cheering the team to victories at Stephens County, Ridgeland and Baldwin.
Now the student body is making a big deal out of its first trip to the state semifinals in school history. Benton believes the Falcons’ faithful will manage to fill all 2,700 seats on the visitors’ side.
"Everyone here is excited about the game," Flowery Branch freshman Cassidy Elrod said. "We’re going to win."
If more fans than that make the 120-mile trip to LaGrange, they can do their part to fill up the rest of Callaway Stadium, which seats approximately 7,000.
To help accommodate travel, Flowery Branch has arranged for two charter buses to carry fans to the game, with 112 spots sold as of Thursday afternoon. He said low gas prices also will be a factor in allowing more fans to make the trip.
The school planned to send the team off in style with a pep rally at 11:15 this morning before the team departs South Hall at 12:30 p.m. The Falcons are leaving early to have time to eat a pregame meal, then hold a walk-through of the game plan at a nearby school.
Elrod said that students have purchased "final four" T-shirts this week to show their support for the Falcons. They’ve also displayed posters around the school to serve as a constant encouragement to the football players.
She said that Flowery Branch’s players have a great attitude going into the biggest football game in the school’s seven-year history.
"They are all great guys," Elrod said. "They’re not cocky at all."
Benton gives a tip of the hat to the coaching staff for putting the team in position to be one of the only four teams remaining to play for the state title.
The winner of the Flowery Branch-LaGrange game will play the winner of the second semifinal between Cairo and Carver-Columbus on Dec. 13 at the Georgia Dome for the Class AAA state title.