Falcons 54, Seminoles 8
Difference maker: Quarterback Kanler Coker rushed for 145 yards on five carries and 2 TDs.
Stat that matters: The Falcon defense swarmed the Salem offense, forcing five fumbles and recovering four of them.
Turning point: After Salem went three-and-out out on its first possession, Flowery Branch's Blake Turner blocked the punt, setting up the Falcon offense on the 2-yard line.
Who's next: Flowery Branch travels to visit Clarke Central with a region title on the line. Salem has completed its regular season.
On a cold and rainy night, the elements didn't hold down an explosive Flowery Branch offense and a swarming defense.
The Falcons (9-0, 9-0) routed the visiting Salem Seminoles (5-5, 5-5) Friday night at Falcon Field by a final score of 54-8.
The victory sets up a showdown with Clarke Central next Friday with the Region 8-AAAA title on the line.
The Falcons used a 28-point second quarter and four Salem turnovers on their way to a dominating victory.
"I thought we played really good in the elements." Coach Lee Shaw said. "Our guys really came to play and stepped on the gas. I was real pleased with our focus. It'd be real easy to have a let down before our big game next week."
The second quarter was very efficient for the Falcon offense and defense. Leading 12-0, they proceeded to score four touchdowns turning a close game into a rout of 40-0 at the half.
Flowery Branch got contributions from several different players including running back Jeremy Haley, quarterback Kanler Coker and wide receivers Casey Osborne and Jamaad Stephens. After a 78-yard run by Coker set up the Falcon offense at the Salem 10-yard line, Haley did the rest by scoring two plays later. The Falcon offensive lineman gave him a tremendous amount of running room finding the end zone from 2 yards out.
"Jeremy Haley, man he's a bull," Shaw said. "That guy continues to get better and better. He's a catalyst for our team."
A Salem fumble on the ensuing possession allowed Osborne to get into the scoring act when he took an option pitch from Coker to extend the Falcon lead to 27-0 with a 9:39 left in the second quarter.
After a Salem punt, the next Falcons drive featured a lot of Haley as he carried the ball five times for 66 yards capping the scoring drive off with a bruising 13 yard run to the right. On the play he ran through and around several Salem defenders.
The Falcons recovered the squib kick on the ensuing kickoff, giving their offense one final possession before the half. They took complete advantage of it when Coker connected with Stephens on a diving touchdown catch with only six seconds left in the first half of play.
"We got right this week in practice," Shaw said. "Our kids responded. I'm proud of our guys and the great effort tonight."
The game started on a great note for the Falcons as Coker picked up where he left off from last week marching down the field on their first possession. On second-and-goal from the 8-yard line, Coker was given plenty of time by his offensive line in order to connect with a wide-open Cris Dilidili in the middle of the end zone to give the Falcons a lead they didn't relinquish.
A blocked punt on the next Salem possession by Flowery Branch's Blake Turner set up a Coker touchdown run on the next play from 2 yards out.
Coker added an exciting 34-yard touchdown run on fourth down in the third quarter. He took the snap and rolled right and kept running down the field, avoiding a couple of Salem defenders who whiffed on a tackle attempt. He walked into the end zone to extend the Flowery Branch lead to 47-0.
Coker ended the night with 145 yards rushing with two touchdown runs and two touchdown passes. Haley also added 134 yards rushing on 15 carries and two touchdowns.
Salem's Che'Darious Robinson was able to put his team on the scoreboard by taking a toss sweep 54 yards down the right sideline for the only points of the night for the visiting Seminoles.
The scoring didn't stop with the Flowery Branch first team offense as quarterback Jackson McDonald found the end zone with about a minute to go in the game to make the score 54-8.
"Last year we were in the same situation and we let it slip away from us," Shaw said of next week's matchup. "Maybe we can put together our best game of the year next week."