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High school football notebook: Flowery Branch on the rise
Flowery Branch running back Jemon Randolph carries the ball during a game against Salem on Sept. 27 in Flowery Branch. The Falcons have won four straight after an 0-2 start. - photo by Nat Gurley | The Times

After a few bumps in the road, Flowery Branch appears to be back at full strength.

The Falcons started the season 0-2 with tough losses to Northside-Warner Robins and West Forsyth. They’ve played a month of perfect football since then, rattling off four straight wins to quickly get back over .500 and in position to once again compete for a Region 8-AAAAA title.

In those wins, Flowery Branch (4-2, 4-0) has outscored opponents 128-41, most recently pouncing on Apalachee 42-20 Friday.

Now just past the halfway point of the regular season, Falcons coach Chris Griffin likes the direction his team is headed.

“We’re undefeated in the region and sitting exactly where we want to be,” Griffin said after Friday’s win. “The guys continue to improve and want to learn what they’re doing wrong, and fix their mistakes.

“We’re getting very, very close to being a really good football team.”

Flowery Branch is one of only three teams still unbeaten in Region 8-AAAAA play. The other two are Gainesville and Clarke Central, who just happen to be the Falcons’ last two opponents of the regular season. As a result, where they end up for the postseason most likely won’t be decided until after those games.

Luckily for Flowery Branch, that’s nothing new. The Falcons had to beat Gainesville in their regular season finale a year ago to secure the first-ever region title.

Flowery Branch visits Winder-Barrow this week.

TROJANS’ RUNNING GAME DOMINANT: When it comes to winning on the ground, no one is finding success quite like North Hall.

The Trojans (5-0, 2-0 Region 7-AAA) rushed for a season-best 571 yards in their 56-31 win over East Hall on Friday, more than 150 yards more than their previous best. They averaged 13.9 yards per carry, a scary number for defenses facing down coach Bob Christmas’ wishbone offense.

At the halfway point of the season, Class AAA’s fourth-ranked North Hall has churned out 2,089 yards for a solid 417.8 per game. The gaudy statistics have reflected on the scoreboard — North Hall is averaging 48.8 points per game.

A stout number, no doubt.

But not the best in the region.

That honor goes to goes top-ranked Buford, which is unloading 54 points per outing after its 63-0 win over West Hall on Friday. The Wolves have won their last three games by that same score.

North Hall and Buford will meet on Nov. 8 at The Brickyard for what is shaping up to be a region title-clinching game, and a potential offensive shootout.

North Hall visits Fannin County on Friday.

WATSON ADDS TO HISTORIC CAREER: As North Hall continues to produce jaw-dropping rushing numbers, Gainesville is doing the same through the air just down the road.

Quarterback Deshaun Watson was once again the engineer of the Red Elephants’ dynamic passing game on Friday against Cedar Shoals, completing 23 of 28 passes for 289 yards and four touchdowns before heading to the sideline early in the second half, as usual, when his team built a lofty lead.

Watson’s performance pushed him over 11,000 career passing yards, yet another milestone for the Clemson commit as he continues to distance himself from the pack on the state’s all-time passing leaders list. With 1,859 yards this season, he’s on pace for his third consecutive 3,000-yard campaign.

Gainesville wrapped up the night with 522 yards and its fourth straight win. The Red Elephants host Salem this week.

COMMERCE SQUEAKS OUT CLOSE ONE: Commerce has jumped out the gates of region play with a 2-0 start, and it’s doing so with dramatic flair.

One week after holding off Region 8-A power George Walton Academy by 10 points, the Tigers edged Athens Christian in overtime for a 22-21 win on Friday in Athens.

Commerce pulled out the victory without any surprises in the game plan. The Tigers pounded their way to the goal line, and running back Chance McClure slipped in for the 3-yard score to put his team within one of Athens Christian.

Rather than tie it up with a field goal and try to win it on the next possession, Commerce went for the 2-point conversion and McClure delivered with another successful attempt.

The win puts the Tigers in a three-way tie for the Region 8-A lead with Prince Avenue Christian and Pinecrest Academy. They’re certain to finish high enough in the Class A public points standings to clinch a state playoff spot for the 17th consecutive year.