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Game of the week: Flowery Branch, East Hall aim for quick starts to football season
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Flowery Branch's Jaizen Ellingham attempts to avoid a tackle from Gainesville's Rassie Littlejohn at Bobby Gruhn Field on Friday, Sept. 21, 2018. - photo by Austin Steele

In his first two seasons as head football coach at Flowery Branch, Ben Hall has come to learn the importance of a quick start. 

Hall began each of his first two seasons with the Falcons with dominant victories over North Hall and East Hall — both wins eventually leading to at least three-game winning streaks. When Flowery Branch takes on the Vikings on opening night for the second year in a row tonight, Hall means to make it a perfect 3 for 3. 

“Rhythm is so important when you’re talking about teenage boys,” he said. “You have to keep everything in perspective and create the rhythm that you want and look to improve from week to week. … just create momentum Friday night and then build off it in the weeks to come.”

Though Hall’s Falcons beat East Hall 70-6 in Week 1 a year ago, the Vikings will have a new look this year behind first year head coach Michael Perry. Hall knows Perry will be running out a spread attack for the Vikings this year, and that East Hall will look to stay as balanced as possible.

Beyond that, East Hall presents much of an unknown. 

“We’re going to have to just play assignment football and expect anything, really,” Hall said. “First game of the year, we’re ready for anything.”

In contrast, Perry knows pretty much exactly what to expect from Flowery Branch, but that doesn’t make pulling out a win in Week 1 any easier. 

The Falcons lost starting quarterback Elijah Gainey to a season-ending knee injury during their scrimmage with Dacula on Aug. 16, but backup David Renard has plenty of experience and flashed potential last season getting playing time as Gainey’s backup on a couple of occasions. 

Renard’s presence on the roster emphasizes Flowery Branch’s biggest strength according to Perry: depth.

“Flowery Branch is going to have depth,” Perry said. “That’s something we don’t have. All our guys, primarily, are playing both ways. Flowery Branch plays a few guys both ways, but they’ve got a lot of kids that they can put in there. So that’s going to be the challenge.”

Perry added that conditioning will play a vital role as his players deal with playing both offense and defense.

Even early in the game, Perry has his doubts. 

The Vikings struggled in both preseason scrimmages this year, particularly on the offensive side of the ball, and Perry said the most important thing he was looking for in the team’s first game was improvement.

“We’ve just got to get where we can establish drives and make first downs consistently,” he said. “That’s something we did not do in the scrimmages. And it’s not one guy causing that. It’s the whole unit. I just want to see better efficiency in the offense.”

The coaches were in agreement in that continuing to get better from offseason performance is the most important goal for Week 1 — with Hall adding that his top concern is playing “a clean game.”

Limiting mistakes and sticking to the game plan will be key for the Falcons if they want to continue their streak of hot starts under Hall.

“We can’t afford numerous penalties and turnovers and just missed assignments. And I’m sure we will have some of that. But we need to limit that and play a clean game and just get the first one under our belt.” 

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