Ben Hall made it clear Friday night he isn’t much of a stat guy. But the performance his Flowery Branch squad put on for the second-consecutive week may entice a little curiosity out of the Falcons’ first-year head coach.
The running back tandem of Malik Damons and Malik Drayton headlined a flashy offensive outing, the defense put on a spectacle complete with two takeaways and a safety, and the Falcons recorded their second-straight victory in a 43-7 rout of Chestatee at Falcon Field.
Damons (17 carries, 160 yards, touchdown) and Drayton (114 rushing yards, three TDs) combined for 274 yards and four scores. Sophomore quarterback Elijah Gainey took advantage of the Falcons’ stout rushing performance to balance this multiple scheme. In his second-career start, Gainey completed 5-of-7 throws for 53 yards and a pair of touchdowns to tight end Nick Lance and wideout Jalin Strown, respectively, as Flowery Branch (2-0) put up touchdowns in three of four quarters.
Meanwhile, the Falcons’ defensive front seven were ruthless in the trenches to overwhelm Chestatee’s spread attack. They used various blitz packages to sack War Eagles quarterback Storm Yarbrough four times and held feature back Nick Lyles to just 44 yards on 14 carries. Defensive back Cameron Cordell and Cody Inman had two sacks each for the Falcons in the first half. A diving shoestring interception by senior Jacob Reed in the third quarter set up a Falcons scoring drive capped by Drayton, who racked up each of his three touchdowns in the period.
“Hats off to our team,” Hall said. “(Our defense) had to totally shift gears, going from a Wing-T approach at North Hall to a full-spread approach at Chestatee. But they didn’t slow down. Probably the craziest thing about this bunch is we’re not close to playing our best ball yet.”
Yarbrough ended the Falcons’ chances for a second-straight shutout victory with only 0:03 left to play when he connected with Caleb Carter for a 10-yard touchdown on fourth-and-4. The loss extends Chestatee’s winless streak to nine games against Flowery Branch.
With both teams harnessing reputations for explosive offenses already, spectators were treated with a defensive display on both sides, resulting in this non-region contest going scoreless for the first 11/2 quarters.
In a matter of minutes, both squads traded fumbles on back-to-back plays to start opening quarter, the second via Flowery Branch linebacker Colby Adams. The senior exploded up the middle to punch the football from the grasp of Yarbrough and retrieve his prize soon after. The Falcons came up empty handed five plays later with a missed 32-yard field goal.
But it wasn’t much longer before Flowery Branch found its groove. A goalline stand which saw the Falcons gang tackle Chestatee running back Reggie James 1-yard short of the plane fueled the flame moving forward. The Falcons went on to rattle off three touchdown drives — all in the second quarter.
“It wasn’t easy early,” Hall said of the start. “We did a good job battling through, and made some adjustments. Chestatee, hats off to them. They had a great defensive plan. They showed a 5-3, they came out with a 5-3, and they hadn’t really shown that, and they played aggressive in the back.”
Damons, who hobbled off the field under his own power in the third quarter due to cramping, was the catalyst of that first-half dominance. He eclipsed the 100-yard mark in the opening half for Flowery Branch. And with minutes left in the half, he rattled off a 21-yard scamper during a run-heavy drive, then capped it with a 2-yard stroll into the end zone to put the hosts up 14-0.
“We’re gonna have to figure out something to alleviate that, but, as he gets more reps he’ll be able to battle through that,” Hall said of his running back with a smile. “I’m trying to convince him that he’s a 25-carry-a-game guy. So those reps will come later in the year, I’m sure.”
Drayton, who took over for Damons shortly after his departure, complemented his teammate’s bruising style on explosive carries and breakaway speed along the edges. Drayton’s 101 yards in the second half helped extend the margin to 41 by the end of the third quarter.
On Friday, Flowery Branch hosts Stephens County; Chestatee hosts Fannin County.