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Falcons 39, Jaguars 25
Difference maker: Jemon Randoplh finished with a game-high 198 yards rushing on 26 carries with two first-quarter touchdowns. The backup running back did all this while filling in for injured starter Jeremiah Goss.
Stat that matters: All six of Flowery Branch’s touchdown drives were at least 60 yards in distance. The Falcons’ longest drive of the night was 90 yards.
Turning point: With Cedar Shoals closing, Falcons quarterback Jackson McDonald tossed a 13-yard touchdown pass to Justin Thomson. The score put the Falcons ahead 32-13 with just over five minutes to play.
Who’s next: Flowery Branch visits Loganville next week in Region 8-AAAAA action. Cedar Shoals hosts Heritage in Athens.
Flowery Branch got on track Friday night, and in a big way.
The Falcons (1-2, 1-0 Region 8-AAAAA) used a dominating first-half performance, fueled by their running attack, and countered almost every big play Cedar Shoals (0-3, 0-1) threw their way in the second half, earning a 39-25 win in front of their home crowd.
“I’m pleased with the overall team effort and how we responded to a little bit of adversity,” Flowery Branch coach Chris Griffin said. “I think we are pointed in the right direction.”
Jemon Randolph stepped into the game after freshman starter Jeremiah Goss left with an injury on the opening drive and rose to the occasion, rushing for a game-high 198 yards on 26 carries with two first-quarter touchdowns.
Quarterback Jackson McDonald ran for a score and tossed two fourth-quarter TDs as the Falcons racked up a season-high 521 yards of total offense to earn their first win of the season.
“I’m proud of Jemon,” Griffin said. “He is a backup and he plays receiver. Coming out there and stepping up, he protected the ball, ran hard, and that is all we could ask for.”
The performance by McDonald came after failing to practice all week, sitting out with an injury he suffered in last week’s loss to West Forsyth.
“Tonight, we had great sets running the ball,” McDonald said. “Our offensive line does a great job. Those big nasty guys, they are opening up lanes for our running backs.”
The night started great for Flowery Branch. It scored on its first four offensive possessions, grabbing a 25-0 lead. Then in the second half, Cedar Shoals found a groove on offense, but it wasn’t as Flowery Branch was able to answer with McDonald’s late touchdown passes.
After being limited to just 53 yards of offense in the first half, the Jaguars racked up 301 yards in the second half, taking advantage of what Griffin called mental mistakes by the Falcons’ defense.
“It was all us,” Griffin said of his defense’s second-half performance. “We made mistakes that we know better and thank goodness we got out of it. We were able to put points on the board to cover it up in the second half.
“I take full responsibility for that and we’ll fix it.”
Regardless of the second-half defensive letdown, the Falcons earned a key region 8-AAAAA victory.
“We started off 0-2, and we did that last year, but we know the region is what matters,” McDonald said. “We are playing for the long run. We aren’t playing for those first two games; we are playing for 15.”
Flowery Branch set the pace in the first half, using touchdown drives of 90, 77, 72 and 60 yards to build its four-touchdown lead.
Randolph scored touchdowns from 3 and 1 yards to cap the Falcons’ first two drives. But the Falcons missed both extra points and only led 12-0.
Cameron Davis capped the Falcons’ third drive, scoring on a 20-yard quarterback keeper from the wildcat formation. On the fourth drive, McDonald scored on a 10-yard keeper, and the Falcons finally converted an extra point, by Abel Tovar, and led 25-0.
“That was part of the game plan, we always want to set up with the run,” Griffin said. “They were giving us the run and felt like we could do that, and we did.”
Cedar Shoals scored on four of its five second-half possessions, using drives of 80, 94, 65 and 80 yards.
The Jaguars used a nine-play drive to open the half, then a 13-play drive a few possessions later to make the score 25-13.
Cedar Shoals’ final two touchdown drives used a total of four plays. The Jaguars used two plays to go 65 yards with 5:15 remaining, a quick answer to McDonald’s 13-yard touchdown pass to Justin Thomson.
Then, after McDonald connected with Davis on a 21-yard score with 3:02 remaining, Cedar Shoals used a 69-yard touchdown connection to score the final touchdown of the night.