FLOWERY BRANCH — Robby Boudreau doesn’t lead Flowery Branch in receptions or touchdowns or receiving yards. He’s not the tallest or the fastest wide receiver on the team and he’s not commonly mentioned among the team’s elite athletes.
But if you need a big play at a big moment, Boudreau is your guy.
Three times this year, the Falcons’ season has come down to one play. An incomplete pass on any of those occasions and they’d be done with football for the year instead of getting ready for Friday’s Class AAA semifinal matchup with top-ranked Gainesville (13-0).
But each time, a Connor Shaw-to-Boudreau connection has kept the team afloat.
Two of those clutch catches came on one drive last week in Flowery Branch’s 35-33 come-from-behind win over Carver-Columbus. The first, which Boudreau gathered in while on his back, kept the chains moving on fourth-and-5. Moments later, a 25-yard gain on fourth-and-8 set up up Connor Shaw’s winning touchdown run from the 1.
Fourth downs in those situations can be some of the most nerve-gnawing moments in sports, like a trip to the free throw line with no time on the clock or a two-strike count in the bottom of the ninth. One play to win or lose. Success equals survival, failure means you’re finished.
But if the Falcons (10-3) felt any pressure, they didn’t show it.
“We were a little nervous,” Shaw said of the final fourth-down conversion, “but we knew we couldn’t let that get to us and we had to go out there and execute.”
Unlike the earlier conversion against Carver-Columbus or the fourth-and-20 touchdown against West Forsyth that put Flowery Branch in the playoffs — both busted plays gone right — the 25-yard gain worked just the way it was drawn up.
The play called was a wheel route, designed for Boudreau, and the senior welcomed his opportunity to shine.
“Big time players make big time plays, and I knew I had to be the man on that one,” Boudreau said. “Connor just threw a good pass and I was able to adjust and make the catch.”
Three plays later, Shaw scored on a 1-yard run, giving the Falcons a win Boudreau ranks “right at the top” of his high school career.
Through eight seasons together, Shaw and Boudreau have formed a bond on the field. The pair began playing together in the fifth grade and say they share a connection forged through hours of practice and countless 7-on-7 camps.
This season it’s paid dividends. Boudreau is third on the team with 33 receptions and 504 yards and is second on the team with seven touchdown catches. He also provides a comfortable target for Shaw, who is closing in on 3,000 yards passing and is completing nearly 77 percent of his passes.
Falcons coach Lee Shaw said Boudreau fits in as the team’s reliable possession receiver in a deep corps of capable pass catchers. Five Falcons have logged at least 20 receptions and 200 yards this season, giving both coach and quarterback plenty of options to choose from.
“It really spreads the field,” coach Shaw said. “You can’t really lock down one particular guy. If you do, Connor does a good job of finding the open receiver, and we’ve got guys that all have certain things they do well and it just works for what we try to do.”
Senior Rodney Young, who also serves as the team’s lock-down cornerback on defense, is the deep threat and the go-to receiver, leading the Falcons in every receiving category (59 receptions, 831 yards, 12 touchdowns).
At H-back, senior Darius Kimbrough fills the role of hybrid receiver/running back, rushing for 231 yards and piling up 584 through the air. Rodriquez Frazier, also a starter at strong safety, and Logan Conley, the team’s No. 2 quarterback, have also come up with big catches this year — including Conley’s 28-yard gain to move the chains last week on a crucial third-and-25 late in the game.
Flowery Branch will likely need every weapon at its disposal as the Falcons take on Gainesville this week. The Red Elephants won 49-17 in the regular season finale and won last season with the region title on the line.
But the Falcons say they’re playing with more confidence now after reeling off three straight playoff wins on the road, including two wins over region champions.
“We’ve talked to our kids and we know we’re better than we were in Week 10,” coach Shaw said. “We’ve talked to them about the amount of (Division-I college) kids we’ve seen the past few weeks, so our perspective is a little different. And the ones that have been with us on the road the last two years, they know there’s one or two plays that can change a game, just like (Friday) night.
“They’re figuring out how to make plays.”