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Game of the Week: Flowery Branch faces big region test at Apalachee
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Flowery Branch defenders swarm over Madison County running back Keidrick Curry during their August meeting at Falcon Field.

High school football: Week 3 previews

Flowery Branch at Apalachee

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: R. Harold Harrison Stadium, Winder

Coaches: Flowery Branch, Lee Shaw; Apalachee, Shane Davis

Records: Flowery Branch (2-0, 2-0 Region 8-AAAA); Apalachee (0-1, 0-1)

Key players: Flowery Branch, QB Kanler Coker (6-4, 210 Sr.), WR C.J. Curry (6-3, 210 Sr.), RB Jeremy Haley (5-8, 210 Sr.). Apalachee, RB Stanley Williams (5-8, 175 So.), RB Zay Henry (6-0, 180 Jr.), DL Rakim Peters (6-2, 230 Jr.).

Prediction: FLOWERY BRANCH. Apalachee will most certainly be the biggest test of the season so far for the Falcons. Both teams have high-powered offenses, but it will be the Flowery Branch defense that proves the difference.

FLOWERY BRANCH — Last season, in its first as a member of Region 8-AAAA, Flowery Branch was good.

Through the first two games this year, the Falcons have been dominant. So dominant, in fact, the starters have compiled little more than four quarters playing time combined in the two blowout wins, including a 64-7 dismantling at Winder-Barrow last week.

Falcons coach Lee Shaw expects to see his starters in the game much longer tonight against Apalachee (0-1, 0-1 Region 8-AAAA) at R. Harold Harrison Stadium in Winder.

“I see it being a tough, four-quarter game,” Shaw said. “It’s the same type of team as last year, the same challenge.
“I look for the character of our team to emerge in a four-quarter game.”

The first meeting between the two schools involved lots of scoring through all four quarters last fall, when the Falcons (2-0, 2-0) won a 52-35 shootout over the Wildcats at Falcon Field in their first taste of top-tier 8-AAAA action.

Flowery Branch might have hung on for the win, but Apalachee scored far more points against the Falcons than any other team did throughout the 2010 season.

“I hope our defense can contain their backs better than last year,” Shaw said. “It’s going to be a real test for our defense.”

Both defenses could be put to the test.

In two games this season, the Falcons have scored 120 points. Using a spread offense, Flowery Branch has put up an average of 521 yards per game with a balanced attack; averaging 272 yards on the ground and 248 through the air.

Even with the starters sitting out late in both games and the outcome well in hand, a number of key offensive players have already emerged. They include a couple of experienced Falcons, and two transfers who have shown no problems with the transition.

Senior running back Jeremy Haley has paced the ground game with 249 yards rushing on 23 attempts and five touchdowns. And senior wide receiver Casey Osborne has snagged a pair of touchdowns already on eight catches and 156 yards receiving.

A pair of former North Hall Trojans have amplified what was already an explosive attack. Senior quarterback Kanler Coker has thrown for 421 yards on 20 of 32 passing with five touchdowns and just a pair of interceptions, while also contributing in the running game. And senior receiver C.J. Curry has found the end zone three times this season on eight catches for 167 yards receiving.

Apalachee, which is coming off of their bye week, scored 35 points in the three-point, season-opening loss to Habersham Central. The Wildcats are based out of a run-heavy, Wing-T offense, but it was wide receiver Jermaine Smith who paced the attack in the opening week with 100 yards receiving and a touchdown.

Junior quarterback Clint Ashe threw for 135 yards and two touchdowns in the opener after recording 453 passing yards and three touchdowns through the air during all of 2010.

Both of these teams can score, but the Falcons also bring a suffocating defense.

Led by junior linebacker Jacob Allen (21 tackles, one interception) and sophomore Quinncy Hodges (21 tackles, three tackles for loss), Flowery Branch has picked up where it left off last season and allowed just seven points to each of its first two opponents.

Allen and the rest of the defense have been preparing for the Wildcats all week, determined to be more prepared for Apalachee’s offense than in 2010.

“Last year they had an athletic offensive line that we weren’t prepared for,” Allen said. “Now we know what they do, how their guards pull, and we’re prepared for a good rushing game.”

It helps that the Falcons have their own speedy backs on the scout team offense to help prepare for the likes of Stanley Williams and Zay Henry, the quick Wildcats wing backs. And the 2011 Flowery Branch defense might just be better than last year’s which, despite giving up 35 points to Apalachee, averaged just 12 points allowed per game.

“I think we’ve gotten more mature,” Allen said. “We had some young guys last year who have taken on more leadership.

“We’ve gotten a lot better this year.”

Tonight, the Falcons expect to be tested, and coach Shaw is looking for his team to be competing down to the wire.

“We want to make sure we’re not frontrunners,” Shaw said. “We want to be finishers.”

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