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High school tennis: Flowery Branch boys top Statesboro to move to Class 5A state semifinals
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Drayton Matus of Flowery Branch hits the ball during a singles match in the state playoffs against Rome High School in Flowery Branch, on Tuesday, April 17, 2018. - photo by David Barnes

For the first time in school history, both tennis programs for Flowery Branch High are headed to the state semifinals.

The No. 2 seeded Falcons embarked on a grueling four-hour bus ride to Statesboro on Wednesday, May 2, to come away with a 4-0 sweep of Statesboro. One year removed from a sudden first-round playoff loss, the Flowery Branch boys continue to power through what has been a historic postseason run under third-year coach Stacey Smallwood.

The milestone came less than 24 hours after the Flowery Branch girls defeated Union Grove to clinch their first-ever state semifinal berth.

“It was just a great team win,” Smallwood said. “The Elite Eight is the furthest we’ve ever been. Of course now being in the (state) Final Four, it just takes it a step further. ... I am so, so proud of the way we’re playing.”

With the win, the Falcons next face No. 2 seed McIntosh — which knocked off top-seeded Chamblee, 4-1, in the quarterfinals — in Peachtree City at a date and time to be determined. 

Smallwood said she had to rearrange her lineup to accommodate the absence of No. 2 singles unbeaten Nathan Holley. As a result, Jack Thomas was bumped up to Holley’s slot, while Brody Millwood landed at No. 3 singles and alternate Matthew Helms filled the void at No. 2 doubles.

It was still a dominant showing across the board for the Falcons.

John Hollis and Brady McVey were the ones to put Flowery Branch on the board first with a 6-1, 6-3 win at No. 1 doubles. Minutes later, Millwood defeated Statesboro’s Garrison Littles in a No. 3 singles match (6-2, 6-0) for the Falcons’ second point. Flowery Branch No. 1 Drayton Matus was up a set (6-2) and 4-1 in his singles match when Gunnar Hetzel and Helms clinched the third-round victory with a straight-set (6-2, 6-3) triumph over Statesboro’s Josh Smith and Nick Popkin at No. 2 doubles.

“Statesboro was a very athletic team,” Smallwood said. “But using our tennis skills, it was a great win. They hardly had any trouble.”