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Flowery Branch’s 38-7 win over Salem on Friday night served as a microcosm for the Falcons’ season thus far. They absorbed a couple of punches early, but it was far from enough to knock them off their feet.
After Salem took a 7-0 lead into the second quarter, Flowery Branch responded with quarterback Jackson McDonald accounting for three touchdowns before the half, and the Falcons cruised to the victory from there.
“Salem’s a good team,” Flowery Branch coach Chris Griffin said. “They put 60 on the board last week, and we knew they’re not the old Salem. We knew it was going to be a battle. We knew years ago if they ever decided to go from the wing-T to the spread, they’d be a good team, and that’s what they’ve done.”
The Seminoles (2-3, 1-2 Region 8-AAAAA) showed flashes of offensive potency early, capitalizing on an interception with a 16-yard touchdown pass from Michael Peck to Kanome McIntosh with 2:18 left in the first quarter. After that, it was all Flowery Branch.
The Falcons (3-2, 3-0) have won three straight and are sitting pretty in the region after sustaining season-opening losses to Northside-Warner Robins and West Forsyth.
In putting away Salem, they showed the same offensive balance and defensive tenacity that has put them on the course that last year ended with a region title.
McDonald, who overcame a pair of early turnovers, was the key component in Flowery Branch’s 370 yards of total offense. He completed 12 of 17 passes for 213 yards and two scores and led the team in rushing with 63 yards on 12 carries and two more touchdowns.
The senior quarterback put the Falcons on the board with a 1-yard run with 8:44 left in the second quarter, and after the Flowery Branch defense forced and recovered a fumble, followed it with 5-yard scoring run two plays later.
With 2:17 left before halftime, he then found Cameron Davis for a 34-yard touchdown toss. The Falcons were never threatened again.
“That fumble (in the first quarter), that’s (McDonald’s) first one of the year,” Griffin said. “That’s not like him, and I know he was sick about it, but kids are kids and they’re going to make mistakes. The good thing about him is he came over, responded and we fixed those issues.”
Meanwhile, the defense did its part. With the help of 3 sacks, the Falcons held Salem to 12 rushing yards on 35 carries and just 150 yards of total offense on the night, 52 of which came on a long pass that was tipped by a Flowery Branch defender into the hands of Salem’s Jordan Scott.
“With any team, you come out expecting them to do something, and (Salem) was doing something a little bit different than what we were expecting,” Griffin said. “So it took us a little bit of time to find our niche, find our groove, and when we did, I felt like we started playing ball.”
The Falcons extended their lead on a 23-yard touchdown pass from McDonald to Jemon Randolph on the final play of the third quarter and finished the scoring on Davis’ 8-yard touchdown run with 9:49 left in the game.
Davis finished with three catches for 75 yards, while A’lencio Graham added three for 58 yards and Justin Thomson had four for 54 yards for Flowery Branch.
Peck led Salem, completing 12 of 29 for 131 yards and one touchdown, and was picked off twice by the Falcons.
Flowery Branch hosts Apalachee next, while Salem hosts Clarke Central.