There’s an old football adage that says if you have two quarterbacks, then you don’t really have one.
The Flowery Branch Falcons have three quarterbacks they can rely on in a pinch, just as they did Friday night in a 46-7 victory over Johnson at Falcon Field in both teams’ first Region 8-AAAAA contest of the season.
With starter Nick Lance out with an injury, Falcon quarterbacks Myles Janess and Kory Graham more than held their own, with Janess carrying 10 times for 158 yards with two touchdowns.
Graham hurt the Knights through the air, completing 5 of 7 passes for 106 yards with two TDs. In all, the Falcons (2-4, 1-1) rushed for 337 total yards and five touchdowns and imposed their will on the Knights (0-5, 0-1), scoring the final 39 points of the game after the game was tied at 7 in the first quarter.
“Kory and Myles came in and did a nice job,” Falcons coach Chris Griffin said of his quarterbacks’ play. “They both have their strengths and we tailored our offense around what they do well.”
The Falcons soared right from the start as Janess scored on a 68-yard sweep around the left side on the first play from scrimmage. The Knights went on a seven-play, 70-yard drive, all runs, including two zone-read option keepers for 35 yards by quarterback Sam Corbett. The sophomore scored from 8 yards to tie the game at 7-7.
Despite two interceptions by Falcons cornerback Jacob Reid, the Falcons could only turn them into three points on a 33-yard Alex Sanchez field goal.
After that, it was all Falcons. With two first-half drives ending in turnovers, the Falcons best drive of the night came toward the end of the first half when Janess, running back Malik Damons and all-purpose back Malik Drayton shared five carries for 78 yards in just over a minute. Drayton scored on a 19-yard run untouched off the right edge one play after Damons ran for 42 yards up the middle. Flowery Branch took an 18-7 lead after Janess ran for the 2-point conversion at the 3:59 mark of the second quarter.
Special teams also played a key role as the Knights started two first-half possessions inside their own 5-yard line because of bad kickoff returns. With Johnson punting from its own end zone with just under a minute remaining in the half, a partial block by Sean Akins gave the Falcons the ball at the Knights’ 47. One play later, Drayton took a Graham screen pass 47 yards to the end zone, giving the Falcons a 25-7 lead just seconds before the half.
Drayton didn’t play in the first quarter, but still totalled 184 yards on nine touches playing only the second and third quarters. He rushed for 77 yards on six carries with a touchdown, caught another two passes for 60 yards and a score, and returned a punt 47 yards to set up the final touchdown in the third quarter.
Griffin on his dynamic playmaker: “He’s pretty electric, and no doubt, when he has the ball in his hands we have a chance to score. He’s just a phenomenal player and we’re expecting big things from him here on out.”
Johnson had several self inflicted wounds, including penalties (seven for 85 yards) and a few passes just miss open receivers downfield, many just over outreached fingertips. Corbett completed 6 of 16 passes for 62 yards and rushed for 82 yards. After Johnson gained 132 yards in the first half, the Falcons defense clamped down on the Knights, holding them to 57 yards in the second half.
“Our D played well, minus that one drive where we made a few errors,” Griffin said. “We missed some tackles and some (run) fits but the coaches did a nice job making some adjustments and making sure the kids knew where they were supposed to be.”
After missing the playoffs by just one game last season despite a 6-4 record, Griffin emphasized to his players the importance of getting off to a good start in region play.
“It’s been our talk all week,” he said. “To take it one game at a time, one play at a time. We have to take care of business and not put ourselves in a situation like last year where we need help. Tonight we put an exclamation point on what we’re capable of doing and we’ll come out next week and hopefully do the same thing.”
Next week the Falcons host Cedar Shoals while the Knights host Walnut Grove.