MILLEDGEVILLE — Flowery Branch senior fullback Daniel Drummond said he couldn’t come up with the right words to describe his team’s 35-17 win over unbeaten and second-ranked Baldwin in the Class AAA state quarterfinals Friday night.
Well, if that’s the case, his actions on the Braves Stadium field said more than any words ever could.
Drummond, a Georgia Tech recruit, put the Falcons (11-2) on his back with three rushing touchdowns and 90 yards, all in the second half, to help them secure their first-ever berth in the Class AAA state semifinals.
"I just wasn’t feeling any pain," said Drummond, whose play on offense had been limited by a shoulder injury. "I knew I just had to get the job done."
This marked Flowery Branch’s first game in the state quarterfinals since its senior class was in its freshman year in 2005. What is unique about this year’s playoff run is that all three wins have come on the road. And from here on out, the road toward a state title shot will also be strictly on the road.
"This feels awesome," Flowery Branch senior defensive end Izaan Cross said. "Any time you beat a great team in their place, it just feels great."
Now the Falcons are one of only four remaining for the AAA state title. Flowery Branch visits LaGrange next Friday, with the winner advancing to the state title game at the Georgia Dome.
Clearly, these road warriors don’t mind that challenge one bit.
"I think we take playing on the road in stride," Flowery Branch senior lineman Bucky Free said. "We just keep talking about adding another chapter to the book.
"To make it to the final four is just an incredible feeling."
"This team played so inspired tonight," Falcons coach Lee Shaw said. "I asked the seniors what kind of legacy they wanted to leave, and they just responded by playing with so much heart."
Trailing 17-7 in the third quarter, Drummond entered the game and changed the Falcons’ offensive attack. In the first half, they kept the ball in the air without the presence of a steady ground attack.
But when Drummond touched the ball, that all changed. His first run was for 5 yards and a key third down conversion late in the third quarter. He capped the drive with his first score from the 3 to narrow the Braves’ lead to 17-14 with 4:10 remaining in the third quarter.
Those first few runs from Drummond late in the third quarter accurately foreshadowed his impact the remainder of the game. He repeated his effectiveness each time he touched the ball with his ability to shed tacklers and lunge for extra yardage.
"Daniel’s a horse," Shaw said. "He’s a big-time fullback, and once we got him in the game we started clicking."
Drummond’s next score came on a run from the 5 to give the Falcons a 21-17 lead with 11:09 left in the game. His hard-nosed running also opened up more running lanes for Flowery Branch’s junior quarterback Connor Shaw. The Falcons’ signal-caller ran for a clutch 10 yard gain on third-and-5 on that drive. Shaw followed his first down run with a 25-yard gain.
The Falcons put the game away with a 12 play, 59 yard drive that Drummond finished with a score from the 4 to extend the lead to 28-17 with only 3:13 left to play. He finished the drive with runs of 13, 13, 7, 12 and 8 yards.
"We play with a downhill mentality," Free added. "We know what we have to do on the offensive line.
"Everyone said we wouldn’t be able to run on their (Baldwin’s) defense," Free said.
Shaw finished the game with a team-high 116 yards rushing and scores of 1 and 24 yards. Once Flowery Branch took the lead, the Braves took another blow when their leading rusher Jerrico Ford (23 carries for 133 yards) left the game with an injury and 10:53 left to play. He scored both of Baldwin’s touchdowns with runs from the 4 and 2 in the second quarter.
The Falcon defense responded by limiting the Braves to only 4 yards of rushing in the second half, and at the same time forced freshman quarterback Roshawn Miline to start throwing more than he would have preferred.
Rodriguez Frazier and Chris Lipscomb each had interceptions for Flowery Branch’s defense.
Baldwin’s season is complete at 12-1.