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The Flowery Branch offense won’t push the issue.
If the defense takes away an offensive weapon, Falcons quarterback Kanler Coker will simply move on to the next. It’s the reason why few teams have been able to slow down the No. 2 scoring offense in Class AAAA and none have been able to stop it.
“We’re going to take what the defense gives us,” Falcons coach Lee Shaw said.
Last Friday, the Thomas County Central defense focused on taking away the leading rusher in senior running back Jeremy Haley, as well as the top receivers.
“Defensively, they schemed to take away pretty much everybody but (Cris) Dilidili,” Shaw said. “Kanler went through his progressions and gave him the ball.”
On an offense that includes a 1,000-yard rusher in Haley, a quarterback with more than 3,000 total yards of offense in Coker, and a pair of college prospects at receiver in C.J. Curry and Casey Osborne, slot receivers like Dilidili and Jamaad Stephens occasionally get lost in the shuffle.
Stephens broke out in the Clarke Central game, catching two touchdowns to pick up the slack of Curry being out with an injury.
Last week, Dilidili announced his presence just after halftime, with the Falcons trailing the Yellow Jackets 14-10 at Falcon Field.
The junior snuck around the defense to the right sideline, where Coker found him open for a 40-yard touchdown and the home team’s first lead of the game.
“I haven’t been big in yardage and touchdowns, but I’m always ready,” Dilidili said. “I’m always ready for those moments.
“I try to help the team anyway I can.”
Much of the time, his job as a starting slot receiver has been to block down field and keep the defense from focusing too much on wideouts Curry and Osborne. But, like Stephens a few weeks before, Dilidili was able to prove just how deep this Falcons’ receiving corps is.
“Casey and C.J. are the D-I prospects but we’re all playmakers,” Dilidili said.
It’s a pleasure for Shaw, who has had strong receiving corps over the years, but nothing like this.
“This is as deep as we’ve ever been,” the coach said. “We feel good about all four that we put out, and we’ve got the ability to throw six different receivers out there who are pretty good.”
It means that no one receiver is compiling the type of offensive numbers that some go-to receivers will get, but it does make the Falcons that much harder to stop, something that Dilidili enjoys being a part of.
“We can move the ball down field like clockwork,” Dilidili said. “Compared to other teams it’s definitely a more complicated offense and that’s what makes us so dangerous.”
Tonight, Flowery Branch will play the one offense in Class AAAA that has been, statistically, even more dangerous.
Tucker, averaging 47.6 points per game on offense, boasts the top offense but the top overall ranking, not to mention a 12-0 record.
The No. 7 Falcons, averaging just over 46 points per game, will take their high-flying attack to Adams Stadium in Atlanta to go against the ground-and-pound Tigers.
While Tucker will not throw the ball much — quarterback Juwaan Williams has thrown for just 525 yards this season — the Tigers are as deep at running back as the Falcons are at receiver with three backs over 500 yards, including Dallas River (767 yards), Yusuf Minor (748) and Jordan Landry (546). The rushing attack has compiled 3,648 yards on the ground this season.
That, paired with a defense yielding less than 10 points per game, is the reason Tucker’s domination has stretched into the postseason (Tigers beat Griffin 46-0 last week). But it doesn’t mean they’ll be taking the Falcons lightly.
“Flowery Branch is a well-coached, disciplined team,” Tucker coach Franklin Stephens said. “They are not given credit for their team speed and athleticism. Defensively, it will be a huge challenge for us just to slow them down. Further, they have so many weapons offensively, you can’t stop them all. They are machine-like in all phases of the game.”
Flowery Branch has shown already just how hard it is to stop all of its offensive weapons.
Last week Coker completed just eight passes, but two went for touchdowns and the passing game still racked up 122 yards, or 15.3 yards per completion. It was a perfect display of how effective the passing game can be as five receivers all caught at least one pass, led by Dilidili (two catches for 67 yards).
“There’s no team in the state that I’d rather play for,” Dilidili said.
And the 5-foot-8 junior is a key piece, even if not always a very visible one, in the Flowery Branch attack.
“He’s short, he doesn’t weigh a whole lot, but he’s as tough as a pine knot, he blocks as well as anybody and he’s a technician in his routes,” Shaw said. “He’s a worker, that’s why he’s earned that spot.”
Now, three weeks into the state playoffs, both slot receivers have announced their presence and have become two more reasons to keep defensive coordinators up at night. Facing the top team in Class AAAA, all of Flowery Branch’s offensive weapons will be in play as two of the states’ offensive juggernauts meet.