SUGAR HILL — The Flowery Branch Falcons couldn’t build on an early lead Friday night and the Lanier Longhorns wore them down and pulled away late to win 27-12.
The Falcons got off to a quick start. Running back Jeremiah Goss (16 carries, 120 yards, 1 touchdown) ran away from the Longhorns for a 45-yard touchdown run right up the gut 1:42 into the game.
Quarterback Jasen Johnson (11 carries, 57 yards, TD) scored on a 3-yard quarterback sneak to put the Falcons up 12-7 after one quarter.
“We came out strong and we just fell short,” Goss said. “We got flat at the end. We just need to work on finishing through.”
Lanier battled back to take the lead going into the half on a drive that was more or less a game of pitch and catch between quarterback Tahj Tolbert (11-for-19, 179 yards, 2 TDs) and wide receiver Tim Leazer (3 catches, 98 yards, TD).
Tolbert connected with Leazer for 30 yards down the sideline. Two plays later, Leazer caught a 36-yard touchdown pass from Tolbert by running the same route. Leazer lined up wide left and sprinted down the sideline, outjumping the corner on both occasions to catch well-thrown lobs from Tolbert. The duo accounted for all but 17 yards on the 83-yard touchdown drive.
Flowery Branch couldn’t do much after that as Lanier imposed its will on a tired Falcons defense in the second half utilizing a trio of running backs led by Tario Fuller (19 carries, 121 yards, TD). Marcella Baity (9 carries, 86 yards) and Ashton Barnes (9 carries, 43 yards) filled in without missing a beat whenever Fuller needed a breather.
“They were more physical, more prepared,” Flowery Branch coach Chris Griffin said. “Obviously wanted it worse than we did.”
Johnson (3-for-9, 27 yards) made his first start of the season for the Falcons. Johnson was at quarterback for the first three quarters before being replaced by freshman Nick Lance (7-for-14, 35 yards, 2 INTs).
Lance, a better pocket passer, was put in to lead the Falcons come-from-behind effort but was unable to produce. The Lanier pass rush was relentless, giving Lance very little chance to put his mark on the game. Two fourth-quarter interceptions ended any chance the Falcons had.
“We’ll get better,” Griffin said. “We’ve got a great group of kids. Our kids know how to fix this. We’ll fix it.”