Difference maker: Kanler Coker shook off an early interception to finish with two touchdowns passing and another rushing to lead the Falcons over Madison County.
Turning point: After an interception by Coker Madison County drove all the way to the 15-yard line, but the Falcons defense stiffened and the Red Raiders missed a 32-yard field goal with 9:48 left in the second quarter and the Falcons up 7-0. Madison County would not get any closer to the goal line until a touchdown in the second half with the game aready a blowout.
Who's next: Flowery Branch travels to Winder-Barrow on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
FLOWERY BRANCH — The Falcons kept their punter resting and scored on all but three of their drives as Flowery Branch sailed over Madison County 56-7 Friday night at Falcon Field in the regular season opener for both teams.
Senior quarterback Kanler Coker, a transfer from North Hall, threw for 204 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 56 yards and another score in his first regular season game as a Falcon.
"It's a great start," said Flowery Branch coach Lee Shaw. "I'm glad to see our team come together like they did."
Senior running back Jeremy Haley churned out 104 yards on the ground and two scores, while senior wide receiver Casey Osborne hauled in five receptions for 91 yards and a touchdown. Coker also found former North Hall teammate C.J Curry twice down the field for 63 yards and a touchdown. It was a good birthday present for Curry.
"It's nice having him out there," Coker said of Curry. "Today was his birthday and I got to give him a touchdown pass."
The new weapons fit well into an already high-powered offense and lock-down defense, Shaw said after the game.
"We just clicked tonight," he said. "We've got a tradition of being tough to play here at our house. Our effort was great tonight."
It was a dominating performance for Shaw's team at home, as the offense racked up 510 yards and the defense allowed just 181.
The Falcons (1-0, 1-0 Region 8-AAAA) wasted no time getting the offense rolling early. After the defense held Madison County (0-1, 0-1) on the opening drive of the game, Coker and the no-huddle offense went to work.
Haley chewed up yards on the ground and Coker finished off the Falcons first drive of the season with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Osborne. Kicker Leo Manzo hit the PAT and Flowery Branch held a 7-0 lead with 6:58 in the first half.
The Falcons defense forced a three-and-out, shutting down Madison County's Wing-T offense. But Coker's second pass on the ensuing drive was tipped and intercepted by Red Raiders linebacker Hayes Hill. It would be the lone Flowery Branch drive of the first half that did not end with a touchdown.
"They're a championship team on paper, and they played even harder in the game," said Madison County coach Randell Owens. "Coach Shaw and his staff do a great job."
With their second drive the Red Raiders were able to move down the field from the Falcons 47 and get within field goal range. Flowery Branch finally held at the 15, and Madison County kicker Joey Sandres 32-yard field goal chance missed low with 9:48 remaining in the first half.
Coker, Haley and the Falcons offense went right back to work from their 20-yard line, using a number of runs by Haley and a 27-yard pass to FBHS receiver Jamaad Stephens to set up a first-and 10 on the MCHS 10 yard line. Haley weaved through the defense for a 10-yard touchdown run on the next play. Flowery Branch missed the extra point but held a 13-0 lead with 7:45 in the half.
The defense handed the ball back to the Falcons offense soon after, and the offense responded quickly. Coker hit Curry for a 29-yard reception and Haley ran the final 16 yards on two carries to complete a three-play touchdown drive with 3:13 in the half. Coker hit Curry again in the end zone for the two-point conversion and a 21-0 lead.
Coach Shaw and the Falcons weren't content to enter the half with a 21-point lead. The Flowery Branch defense bent but did not break on Madison County's next drive, forcing the Red Raiders to punt with just over one minute remaining in the half.
Flowery Branch took over on its 24, needing to gain 76 yard in just over a minute.
Coker and his receivers didn't need so much. The signal caller hit Osborne for 37 yards and then fired a 34-yard touchdown strike to Curry with 39 seconds still on the clock.
Coker added an 18-yard touchdown run early in the second half to put the Falcons ahead 35-0 before Madison County finally broke through.
On the second play of the drive quarterback Alex Jordan lofted a pass downfield to wide open receiver Trey Burton, who scampered the rest of the for a 78-yard touchdown reception.
Burton finished the game with a team-high 97 yards receiving and 26 yards rushing.
The Falcons came right back and scored three more times on the night with backup quarterback Jackson McDonald leading the way with two touchdowns and 69 yards through the air on 7-of-8 passing and another 35 yards rushing.
Sophomore wide receiver Devante King recovered a Flowery Branch fumble in the end zone to put the hosts ahead 42-7, McDonald threw a touchdown pass to Austin Jones and freshman Justin Curry ran for an 11-yard score for the final points of the night.
Flowery Branch will travel to Region 8-AAAA opponent Winder-Barrow Friday at 7:30.