Flowery Branch made a number of costly mistakes Friday against Heritage.
Among a handful of Falcons’ turnovers, a turnover on downs late in the first half near midfield may have loomed bigger than any other sudden change of possession in their 35-16 loss.
After managing to chip away at a sizable first-half deficit to the Patriots (1-3, 1-2 Region 8-AAAAA), Flowery Branch turned the ball over on a missed fourth-down conversion near midfield in the final minute of the first half.
The Patriots needed just three plays to go in and score on a 23-yard touchdown pass from David Turner to Edwin Fountain on the final play of the first half, switching the momentum completely back their way.
“That play was huge,” Flowery Branch coach Chris Griffin said.
With the loss, Flowery Branch falls to 1-2 on the season, 0-2 in region play.
Flowery Branch turned the ball over four times on the night. Heritage fumbled the ball five times but only resulted in one turnover.
After scoring 10 straight points in the second quarter, cutting into a 20-point hole, the failed fourth-down attempt with an incomplete pass set the tone for the rest of the game. After regaining possession, Heritage quarterback David Turner picked up 11 yards on consecutive run plays, then called a timeout with 1 second left before halftime.
On the final play of the half, Turner found an open Edwin Fountain in the back of the end zone, the first of his two touchdown grabs on the night.
After three narrow losses on the season, Heritage is now back to 1-2 in region play. On Friday, the Patriots return to Hall County for a game against Gainesville at City Park Stadium.
“We look at it like we’re 1-0 in the region,” Heritage coach Wendell Early said. “These kids have faced so much adversity, playing for three coaches in three seasons and kept playing so hard.”
Heritage lost starting running back C.J. Stone to a season-ending knee injury prior to the game, according to Early. The Patriots opened up the offense with Turner’s 160 passing yards. Along with Fountain’s two touchdown catches, Kenan Johnson had two catches for 74 yards. In the first quarter, Turner hit Johnson for a completion that resulted in a gain of 61 after the run.
“The kids on this team won the game for each other,” Early said. “It doesn’t what kind of organization you run, it’s hard to work for three leaders in three years.”
Despite giving up a couple of big pass plays, Flowery Branch’s defense played quite well most of the night. The Falcons held the Patriots to just 31 yards on the ground and 191 yards of total offense.
“Our defense gave us a chance to win,” Griffin said.
When Flowery Branch made a mistake early in the game, Heritage capitalized. After Johnson’s 61-yard reception late in the first quarter, Blade Reid scored on a run from the 7 for the Patriots. Three plays after scoring, Heritage linebacker Seth Fallen scooped up a fumbled and went in untouched for a 38-yard score.
Heritage went up 20-0 with Fountain’s 14-yard touchdown catch on the first play of the second period. That touchdown was set up after Flowery Branch fumbled the ball on a punt attempt.
Despite trailing by three touchdowns in the first half, Flowery Branch stayed in the game. Midway through the second quarter, the Falcons moved swiftly down the field and scored on quarterback Jasen Johnson’s 13-yard run. In addition to a leaping one-handed grab by receiver Christian Bennett in the second half, he started the touchdown drive with a catch that gained 12. Goss picked up 11 and 20 yards on runs to sustain the touchdown drive.
After a successful two-point conversion, Flowery Branch quickly tacked on another two points with a safety, cutting the deficit to 20-10.
With momentum in hand, Flowery Branch attempted a fourth-down play at the Heritage 45, which resulted in an incomplete pass. After two quick runs for first down with the ball back, Heritage’s quarterback had the presence of mind to call a timeout with one second remaining in the half. On the final play before intermission, Fountain was open in the back of the end zone for the score to push the Patriots’ lead back to 28-10.
In addition to a pair of interceptions from the secondary for Heritage, Dixon scored on a 31-yard pass from Turner in the third quarter, establishing its biggest lead of the night at 35-10.