TOCCOA -- If games could end at the point where things start deteriorating for a team, then Flowery Branch would have left The Reservation having dominated Friday's season opener.
As it turned out, however, the Falcons (0-1) early success didn't carry over to the latter part of the game, and they lost 28-25 to Stephens County in Toccoa.
"We jumped on 'em early and had them in a position to put the nail in the coffin," Flowery Branch coach Lee Shaw said. "Then we let them back in it."
A late touchdown brought the Falcons close, but they were unable to recover an onside kick with less than a minute left and the Indians ran out the clock.
The Falcons scored on their second possession of the game, a possession given to them by an interception and 34-yard return by Rodney Young.
Senior Daniel Drummond, on the third play of the drive, broke through the defense for a 22-yard run that set up a 27-yard touchdown pass from Connor Shaw to Chris Lipscomb on the next play.
After swapping fumbles with Stephens County (1-0), Flowery Branch made it 14-0 with another touchdown pass from Shaw, a 17-yard strike to Rodriquez Frazier.
Shaw finished 12-of-21 for 175 yards and was the team's leading rusher with 43 yards.
It was on Stephens County's next possession that the deterioration began. On third-and-17, Jaquan Trammell got behind the Falcons defensive backs and converted on a 69-yard pass play. The Indians scored four plays later.
It would be the first of two big plays for Trammell who would score on a 37-yard pass from Stephens quarterback Dacen Cash on the team's next possession.
Cash finished the game 7-of-14 for 178 yards and one touchdown.
The majority of those yards went to Trammell, who finished the game with three catches for 111 yards and two touchdowns.
"Our d-backs gave up big balls," Shaw said, "and that's the strength of our team. Those were really costly."
It wasn't just touchdown passes that were costly, however.
With the score 17-14 Flowery Branch at the start of the second half, the Falcons' defense got the Indians to third-and-long twice, only to give up two 27-yard pass plays for first downs.
"I knew up here that if momentum swung, we were going to be in a fight," Shaw said.
And fight the Falcons did. Down 28-17 with under a minute to play, Flowery Branch no-huddled its way to a score and 2-point conversion, but couldn't get its hands on the onside kick that followed.
"We talked to them," Shaw said. "We said that we were going to score and go for two (2-point conversion), get it, get the onside kick, make a pass and then kick the game into overtime.
"They believed everything. We just didn't get that kick."
While the loss was disheartening, Shaw says it isn't a make-or-break game for his team.
"I'm not going to say this is the best thing that could happen because you don't want to lose," he said. "But we will grow from this.
"I'm not going to fault our kids for the effort. They played hard and that's what we needed. We needed a game that was a fight to see where we were."