Flowery Branch at Chestatee
When: 7:30 tonight
Coaches: Flowery Branch, Chris Griffin; Chestatee, Bill Forman
Records: Flowery Branch (0-0); Chestatee (0-0)
Key players: Flowery Branch, RB Jeremiah Goss (5-8, 200, So.), WR/DB Cortez Davis (5-11, 175, Jr.), LB/RB Cole Ford (6-0, 215, Sr.). Chestatee, RB/LB Kris Pierce (5-8, 210, Sr.), RB/LB Tray Bryant (6-2, 210, Sr.), RB/DB A.J. Sijiye (6-2, 195)
Flowery Branch coach Chris Griffin remembers the beginnings of the Flowery Branch and Chestatee football programs, when the brand-new schools played each other in their first-ever game in 2002.
The War Eagles won two of the first three meetings in a series that lasted eight straight years, but the Falcons won the next five matchups (four by at least 28 points) before the rivalry took a hiatus following the 2009 season.
As the programs prepare to meet for the first time in five years Friday night at War Eagle Stadium, both now stand on strong footing.
Flowery Branch has nine straight winning seasons, including 10 or more wins six times and a Class AAA
runner-up finish in 2008, while Chestatee is coming off a 9-3 campaign that featured its first playoff victory ever.
“To finally get the two of us back, two Hall County schools who for a long time were kind of compared to each other, and now to get back and play it again it’s a lot of fun,” Griffin said.
“I know they’re excited about it. Our community is excited.”
Griffin is in his third year as head coach for the Falcons but has been on the football staff at the school since it began. First-year Chestatee head coach Bill Forman spent the past two seasons as defensive coordinator for the War Eagles before taking over this year. Even though he wasn’t here in 2002, he said he’s heard stories about those early days.
With the state of the two programs, this renewed rivalry appears to be getting back on the schedule at the right time.
“For a while I think both programs went different directions, and it’s good to see us both having high expectations for ourselves,” Forman said. “No doubt that they set a high standard for themselves, and we’d like that we’ve set the same kind of standard here.”
Griffin sees a clear challenge Friday night in combating Chestatee’s desire to grind out long drives and keep the ball away from the Flowery Branch offense. Slowing that Chestatee option attack will be easier said than done, according to Griffin.
“You have to be very sound in your responsibilities: who’s got the dive, who’s got the quarterback, who’s got the pitch,” Griffin said. “Your defensive line has to be very sound and physical, keep the linemen off the linebackers so they can be where they need to fit.”
Forman knows that facing an offensive attack led by Falcons quarterback Jasen Johnson and running back Jeremiah Goss, both sophomores, won’t be easy. He said Goss is particularly dangerous.
“The kid is special. He’s a unique athlete. He’s got all the intangibles,” Forman said. “He’s patient when he needs to be. He hits it hard, and he’s hard to get down. He never goes down on first contact. You’re in trouble if he gets in the open field.”
Chestatee, on the other hand, will be without one of its top athletes Friday night.
Offensive lineman Matthew Pruitt is out for the season with a knee injury suffered in a scrimmage against East Hall last week, but the senior is still drawing interest from schools like Wofford and Georgia Tech, whose game he will attend Saturday in Atlanta.
Griffin is glad to have a tough opener to gauge his largely inexperienced group’s progress.
“Chestatee fits that bill perfectly,” Griffin said. “They’re going to be disciplined. They’re going to be prepared. It’s who we need to play Game 1 instead of an easy victory.”
Forman welcomes that kind of challenge, as well.
“You don’t get a better measuring stick than a team like Flowery Branch to see what you’re made of,” Forman said. “Those guys are good. If you don’t bring your ‘A’ game, it’s going to be a long day for you.”