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Flowery Branch keeps turnaround going with 54-6 win against Johnson
Falcons start Region 8-5A play with a bang under first-year coach Ben Hall
Flowery Branch running back Malik Damons breaks loose for a touchdown Friday at Billy Ellis Memorial Stadium in Oakwood. - photo by Jared Putnam

Many thought a rebuild was in order for the Flowery Branch High football team after the last three seasons featured a combined 14 wins and zero trips to the playoffs. 

First-year coach Ben Hall is having nothing of it — that much is apparent after the Falcons soared to a 4-1 record with their 54-6 victory against Johnson High on Friday night in Oakwood in the Region 8-5A opener for both teams.

“The team (has) responded well to our style of play, and we’re continuing to get better each and every week,” Hall said. “I’m proud of our kids, especially our senior class for accepting the coaching change and working hard each and every day to better themselves. That’s what it’s all about.”

Flowery Branch’s Jalin Strown started the game with a 95-yard kick return touchdown along the right sideline, during which he was barely touched. The Falcons went on to score on of their first 10 first-half possessions, rolling to a 48-0 halftime lead. 

The Falcons had 325 of their 420 total yards in the first half and produced a balanced attack with 188 yards passing and three touchdowns by quarterbacks Elijah Gainey and Connor Boyd. Hall called only nine rushing plays in the first half, which resulted in 137 yards and another three scores, two by running back Malik Damons (88 yards on five carries). 

The Knights (0-5, 0-1 region) had one first down and just 58 total yards in the first half. Johnson finished the game with 158 total yards.

Flowery Branch’s offense was marked by huge plays its their usual cast of playmakers, including a 36-yard touchdown run by Damons on the Falcons’ fourth play from scrimmage. Running back Malik Drayton had a 25-yard touchdown catch and a 17-yard scoring run, while Strown hauled in a 45-yard score on a deep post to put the Falcons up 41-0 late in the first half.

Knights junior quarterback Sam Corbett raced 80 yards for a touchdown in the second half, while Flowery Branch freshman quarterback Austin Hatcher registered a 49-yard rushing touchdown for the final points of the game. Damons and Drayton (91 total yards on seven touches) both sat out the second half.

“They’re a dynamic duo, a thunder-and-lightning, whatever you guys want to call them,” Hall said of Damons and Drayton. “They feed off each other’s and their teammates success.” 

Strown totaled 140 yards on two touches. Gainey and Boyd both had a 5-of-9 passing clip in the first half, with Gainey throwing for 85 yards and two touchdowns and Boyd compiling 103 and a score. The Falcons’ defense was stout up front, sacking Corbett three times while adding five tackles for loss and forcing two turnovers.

“It all starts on the line of scrimmage on each side of the ball,” Hall said of his emphasis on physicality. “I believe in building linemen and using skill guys to their skill set. The one consistent thing year-in and year-out in high school football is you can develop a line of scrimmage on each side of the ball, and that’s what we’re doing.”

The Falcons continue region play at Cedar Shoals High next Friday. 

“There are no off-weeks,” Hall said despite his club outscoring opponents 195-54 over the first half of the season. “We have stout opponents each week and have to continue to get better.”

The Knights travel to Walnut Grove for a region game next week.