Falcons 42, Wildcats 20
Difference maker: Flowery Branch quarterback Jackson McDonald commanded an explosive showing by his team’s offense. He was a perfect 6 for 6 passing for 124 yards and three touchdowns, while running for a team-high 67 yards. He would’ve had a rushing touchdown had it not been for a penalty that voided the play.
Stat that matters: The Falcons racked up 285 yards in the first half on just 19 plays, for an average of 15 yards per snap.
Turning point: On the first play of the second quarter, McDonald connected with Cameron Davis for a 26-yard touchdown pass. Once Flowery Branch tacked on a 2-point conversion, the lead was 21-0 and the Falcons cruised the rest of the way.
Who’s next: Flowery Branch visits Winder-Barrow next Friday in Winder. Apalachee plays host to Loganville.
With a four-game winning streak at hand and the ball clearly rolling, Flowery Branch is finding all sorts of different ways to score.
The Falcons used an explosive offense and a little help from the defense to make quick work of Apalachee on Friday, cruising past the Wildcats for a 42-20 win.
Five different players were responsible for scoring touchdowns, as Flowery Branch (4-2, 4-0 Region 8-AAAAA) posted all the points it needed in the first half to keep its region record unscathed.
“The fortunate thing about our team is that we have a lot different guys that can score and put points up when they have the ball,” Falcons coach Chris Griffin said. “We’ve got multiple guys who are dangerous when the ball is in their hand. A lot of credit has to go to that offensive line.”
Flowery Branch holds a share of the Region 8-AAAAA lead with Gainesville, while Clarke Central sits half a game back.
The 0-2 start to the season is a fading memory at this point.
“The biggest thing is confidence,” quarterback Jackson McDonald said. “Now we realize we’re rolling, and I’m excited for the next one. We’re taking it one game at a time, and hopefully we’ll keep rolling like we have been.”
McDonald has been a key factor in the Falcons’ turnaround. The senior continued his recent tear into opposing defenses, going a perfect 6 for 6 passing for 124 yards and three touchdowns. He also led his team in rushing with 67 yards on six carries.
He needed only three plays to find the scoreboard for the first time in the evening, connecting with Justin Thomson for a 28-yard touchdown pass to give Flowery Branch a 7-0 lead.
McDonald nearly added a 25-yard touchdown run to his stat line late in the first quarter, but a block-in-the-back penalty erased his effort.
Instead, he shrugged it off and hit Cameron Davis for a 26-yard touchdown pass three plays later, putting his team up 21-0.
“I’m so glad that we’re this explosive,” McDonald said. “It’s good in case we need it, in case we have to come from behind. We’re lucky to get explosive plays, and it comes from our line doing a great job blocking.”
His final touchdown of the night came just two minutes later on a 10-yard pass to A’lencio Graham. The play was set up by a 39-yard heave from the same tandem.
It was one of only several big plays that highlighted Flowery Branch’s monster first half. The running game also got involved early, with Jemon Randolph scoring on a 6-yard run late in the first quarter and Davis taking a direct snap 33 yards for a score with three minutes left to play in the first half.
Davis, who is listed as a wide receiver, has taken a direct snap twice this season and scored on both occasions.
“Right now, the offense is clicking,” Davis said. “We had a good offense last year, but I think we’re better this year. If we keep progressing we could be even better than we are right now.”
Flowery Branch totaled 285 yards in the first half on just 19 plays, good for 15 yards per snap. The Falcons finished the game with 348 total yards.
“Our offense has found an identity,” Griffin said. “They’ve figured out what defenses are trying to do. We have an understanding of what we’re trying to accomplish when we call something.
“It’s where you want to be at this point of the year, especially at the second half of the regular season, when we approach games that could seed us for the playoffs.”
Even the defense got a chance to shine.
Flowery Branch blocked an Apalachee punt on the Wildcats’ 36-yard line, freshman linebacker Anthony Woodall jumped on the loose ball and hesitantly carried it into the end zone for the touchdown as he looked behind him to ensure the whistle hadn’t been blown.
“The punt block was obviously something you work on every week,” Griffin said. “We’ve seen maybe 15-20 punts this year and hadn’t gotten one, so I told our guys that it was going to happen. You prepare for it and you celebrate it.”
Apalachee, still on the hunt for its first win, didn’t score until the final seconds of the first half, when Wildcats quarterback Chance Rodriguez connected on a 4-yard touchdown pass to Jody Mathis.
With a running clock and Flowery Branch’s starters gone in the second half, Mathis gave Apalachee (0-5, 0-3) another score midway through the third quarter on a 2-yard run. Jonathan Doman punched in another touchdown run from 4 yards as the final buzzer sounded.
Mathis and Justin Skinner anchored the Wildcats’ offense, each rushing for 77 yards on 15 carries.