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Big 3rd-quarter surge lifts Falcons, 35-27
Flowery Branch crawls out of halftime hole, wins 6th straight
Flowery Branch’s Justin Curry gets the ball stripped away by Heritage High’s Dominique Packer during the first half of Friday’s Region 8-AAAAA game at The Branch.

FLOWERY BRANCH — Flowery Branch senior defensive back Quinton Mayfield was one of the players that insisted at halftime his team play better after a dreadful start Friday against Heritage.

Then Mayfield did his part to make it happen in front of the home crowd at Falcon Field.

He intercepted two passes in the third quarter that led directly to Falcons (6-2, 6-0 Region 8-AAAAA) touchdowns and a pivotal 35-27 come-from-behind win against the Patriots.

“That just shows how strong our team is and that we’re going to stick together,” said Mayfield, who finished the game with three picks. “That first interception of the second half really set the tone.”

Flowery Branch outscored Heritage 29-0 in the third quarter, keeping its hopes of winning the region championship alive. The great third quarter for the Falcons wiped away a first half in which the Patriots (6-2, 4-2) scored 17 points off of Falcons’ turnovers.

“We’re just so happy to get this win,” Flowery Branch running back Justin Curry said. “It was ugly early, but we pulled it out.”

After turning the ball over four times in the opening half, Flowery Branch scored its four touchdowns in just a four minute span in the third quarter.

Heritage led 27-6 at halftime.

It was a perfect blend of great defense, solid running by the sophomore Curry (23 carries, 165 yards) and a pair of touchdown passes by junior quarterback Jackson McDonald in the third quarter.

The win was important as Flowery Branch starts an especially tough pair of games to round out the regular season. Its final two games are against Clarke Central (3-4, 3-2) and Gainesville (7-1, 6-0).

“We won five straight to start out in region, but they all came against teams with a losing record,” Flowery Branch coach Chris Griffin said. “To come out and beat a high-quality team like Heritage is huge for us.

“I’m proud of our team because they showed maturity and that they can respond to adversity.”

It all started in the third quarter with a 4-yard touchdown run on the keeper by McDonald to start and chip into the Patriots lead. He set up the score with a 40-yard throw to Jamaad Stephens.

Then Mayfield helped keep the momentum on Flowery Branch’s side. On the first play of Heritage’s next drive, he came away with a diving interception in front of the intended receiver.

Curry scored on a 27-yard run two plays into the Falcons’ drive. Then after another interception by the Falcons, this time by Gabriel Takacs, Flowery Branch scored on its first play, a 30-yard pass from McDonald to Darius Curry.

Flowery Branch’s final score came when McDonald hit Stephens in the back of the end zone on an 18-yard pass. Mayfield set up the score with his third and final interception of the night.

Mayfield’s first interception was midway through the first quarter with Flowery Branch trailing 14-0.

“Quinton’s a guy that’s played for us for four seasons now and is someone we can always count on,” Griffin said.

The huge third quarter erased a first half full of frustration for the Falcons. Flowery Branch fumbled on each of its first two drives of the game and Heritage punched both in for touchdowns on a short field.

Dominique Packer scored for the Patriots on a 51-yard fumble return early in the first quarter, then Tyler Weaver scored on a 4-yard run less than a minute later for Heritage.

After a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, Flowery Branch started its third drive on its own 3.

However, late in the first quarter and trailing 17-0, Flowery Branch’s offense started to come around. Curry put together a long string of steady runs and scored on a run from the 5 in the final seconds of the first period.

Most of Curry’s yards on the night came after first contact.

“Justin’s a running back with big-play potential, but can also pick up the hard yards too,” Griffin said.

Harrison Kulp added a pair of 22-yard field goals in the opening half for the Patriots.

On Friday, Flowery Branch visits Clarke Central in Athens.

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