Falcons 49, Jaguars 7
Difference maker: The Flowery Branch defense kept Cedar Shoals to minus-18 yards of offense in the first half and just 53 yards overall.
Stat that matters: Cedar Shoals was held to just 1.3 yards of offense per play and only one late touchdown.
Turning point: After Flowery Branch lost a fumble on the opening drive of the game, the Falcons defense denied Cedar Shoals any momentum by forcing a three-and-out and the first of eight Jaguars punts. Flowery Branch scored on each of the next six possessions.
Who’s next: Flowery Branch travels to Rockdale County (1-3, 1-3 8-AAAA) on Friday. Cedar Shoals is off for a bye week.
The Falcons won with offense, they won with special teams, and more than anything else, they won with defense.
In a 49-7 win, Flowery Branch (4-0, 4-0 Region 8-AAAA) held Cedar Shoals (2-2, 2-2) to just 53 yards of offense Friday night.
“They brought pressure and they had us scouted pretty good,” said Cedar Shoals coach Dreco Thomas. “They were able to take away the things we do well.
“But I didn’t think that we wouldn’t be able to move the ball.”
It was a bounce-back game for the Falcons’ defense after allowing a season-high 20 points last week at Apalachee. Senior linebacker Jacob Allen led the way with six tackles for loss and nine total tackles, in addition to a blocked punt return for a touchdown in the third quarter to slam shut the Falcons’ fourth win of the season.
“A lot of guys played with a lot of emotion that they didn’t play with last week,” said Flowery Branch coach Lee Shaw. “(Allen) is the bell cow on the defense. When he gets rolling, everybody else responds to it.”
Once again, the Falcons recorded high-flying offensive stats, but in the first half the defense was untouchable. At halftime the Cedar Shoals offense had 18 fewer yards than they started with, recording minus 10 yards on the ground and minus 8 through the air.
Allen and his teammates had added motivation with Flowery Branch honoring U.S. military veterans before the game.
“We were playing this game for the people overseas,” the senior said. “The cause we were playing for was bigger than ourselves.”
The Flowery Branch defense showed up in a big way.
“It was a great team effort on defense,” Shaw said. “And the defensive staff put together a great gameplan and the players executed.”
Sophomore defensive back Jeremy James added an interception for the Falcons’ lone takeaway. The Jaguars recorded just one first down in the first half, that on a roughing-the-kicker penalty, and three first downs total.
In fact, penalties were about the only thing keeping the Falcons from even more points as the Jaguars defense had no answer for the spread attack.
Last week, Flowery Branch scored a season-low 42 points at Apalachee. Friday, the Falcons offense recorded 42 points in the first half.
At halftime Flowery Branch had already rolled up 342 yards of offense, 182 through the air and 160 on the ground. It finished with 387 total yards of offense.
Senior quarterback Kanler Coker passed for 179 yards on 13 for 22 passing and two touchdowns, completing passes to seven different receivers, and ran for 41 yards and another score.
C.J. Curry recorded a team-high 61 yards receiving, while fellow senior Casey Osborne proved a dual threat, catching three passes for 34 yards and running 19 yards for a touchdown on an option run.
Junior Darius Curry caught a 30-yard touchdown pass, Chris Dilidili caught two passes for 47 yards and fellow junior Jamaad Stephens hauled in a 1-yard score.
Senior running back Jeremy Haley ran 12 times for 89 yards and a pair of touchdowns to lead the way.
For all of the Falcons success on offense, the unit started off on the wrong foot, losing a fumble on the opening drive of the game.
But the Flowery Branch defense forced the first of six first-half punts, and then the offense got busy.
From the Cedar Shoals 19-yard-line, Coker flipped the ball to Osborne on an option play and the senior receiver found the end zone for the opening score of the game. It was the first of six consecutive touchdowns on six straight possessions for the Flowery Branch offense.
Even with a 42-0 lead at the half, coach Shaw kept his first team units out to start the second, not forgetting how Cedar Shoals had rallied from 28 points down against Habersham Central two weeks before.
“I knew they weren’t going to quit,” Shaw said. “No matter what the score was at half, I knew we had to go back out there and finish it.”
The offense stalled on their first drive of the third quarter, but the special teams came through after the defense once again held Cedar Shoals to a three-and-out. With 3:52 left in the third, junior Quinton Mayfield dived to block the Jaguars punt, and Allen scooped up the ball and ran 33 yards for the score.
It was the first official touchdown of the season for the linebacker.