In a game between quantity and quality Friday night, quality won.
While Gainesville’s had more offensive weapons on Bobby Gruhn Field, Flowery Branch had the most potent: quarterback Jaybo Shaw.
Shaw led the Falcons (6-1, 1-0) back from 21 points down in the second quarter to beat Gainesville 49-38 Friday night, Flowery Branch’s first win at City Park.
The senior and Middle Tennessee State recruit ran for 235 yards and four touchdowns on 31 carries and completed 14-of-21 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown.
"We just executed," he said. "I told coach, ‘Give me the ball. I’m taking the game over. I’m taking over in the fourth quarter.’ I wasn’t going to be beat. I’m not going out in my senior year losing."
Twice in the fourth quarter, during vital drives, it looked like Shaw was primed to be sacked. After a quick side step out of danger and a move through the pocket, he broke free for big runs that led to touchdowns.
His 16-yard touchdown pass to senior Tracy Sykes with 4:52 left in the game gave Flowery Branch its first lead of the game at 42-38.
"He’s hard to stop," Gainesville coach Bruce Miller said. "People don’t realize how hard he is to stop. He’s slippery. ... He got over what we were doing early and made some plays."
On Gainesville’s (4-3, 0-1) ensuing drive, Miller decided to go for it on fourth-and-2 from the Red Elephants’ 28-yard line. Quarterback Justin Fordham’s sweep to the right came up inches short and Gainesville fans started heading for the parking lot.
"My thinking was, they were giving us the edge," Miller said. "I thought we could get it pitched out to the edge. ... It was a bad call on my part. I just felt like we could get the first down."
Five plays later, Flowery Branch’s Darius Kimbrough made the win official with an 8-yard touchdown run with just under two minutes to play.
"I knew I had to step my game up," Kimbrough said. "I knew after that, we had the game."
After Shaw took the final knee to run out the clock, the Falcons’ players, cheerleaders and fans mobbed the giant "G" at the center of Bobby Gruhn Field.
Flowery Branch Lee Shaw couldn’t escape without bumping into a few people, but the smile didn’t leave his face as he left the mob. "We made some plays and these guys just played their hearts out," coach Shaw said. "I’m so excited for them. I’m so proud of them. This is huge for our program."
Gainesville looked to have complete control of the game in the first half, building leads of 21-0 and 28-7 with a more balanced offense than it has shown in prior games.
Fordham completed 17 of 24 passes for three touchdowns and 259 yards in the first half. He completed passes to seven different receivers. Senior receivers Gerald Ford and Tyler Adetona combined for 12 catches, 202 yards and two touchdowns in the first half.
Senior running back Kendrick Harris ran for 43 yards and a touchdown on eight carries.
In addition, Gainesville’s defense succeeded in keeping Jaybo Shaw in check, forcing an interception and a fumble inside its own 5-yard line in the first 26 minutes of the game.
But those roles reversed in the third quarter and the Red Elephants lost any sign of the momentum.
Fordham managed just eight completions on 17 attempts and a touchdown. Gainesville’s last drive deep into Flowery Branch territory ended with a 22-yard field goal by Caleb Turner.
"We may have gotten away a bit from what we should have been doing," Miller said. "You look back at this one, it’s going to be one you kick yourself in the butt for."
With Gainesville’s offense cooling off, Flowery Branch’s offense caught fire.
Jaybo Shaw ran for 121 yards and three touchdowns and completed eight passes, Kimbrough added 33 yards rushing and 50 yards receiving and the Falcons scored 35 points in the second half.
The Falcons had 12 second half first downs and Gainesville had six.
"It’s hard," Adetona said. "It came down to a shootout. It’s all about making plays. We didn’t make the plays when we needed to."
The field at City Park after Flowery Branch’s win exhibited two teams in striking contrast.
The Falcons, still celebrating 30 minutes after the game ended, not only got a historic win, but also a leg up in the subregion, putting a crushing loss to North Hall a week earlier in the past.
"To know that our kids can rebound, that’s big going into the rest of the season," Lee Shaw said. "Doing what we did tonight, we are going to enjoy it and then go back to work."
"This is what we needed," Jaybo Shaw said.
Gainesville, on the other hand, lost three consecutive games for the first time since 2000 and even a playoff spot is no longer a sure thing.
"It’s all about character at this point," Miller said. "You started working in August for these opportunities and several have slid by at this point. It’s about, are you going to have character to come out here and play?"
Flowery Branch 49, Gainesville 38
Flowery Branch 0 14 14 21—49
Gainesville 7 21 3 7—38
GHS—Johnson 19 pass from Fordham (Turner kick), 4:44
GHS—Harris 5 run (Turner kick), 11:35
GHS—Adetona 80 pass from Fordham (Turner kick), 6:30
FBHS—J. Shaw 5 run (Ellis kick), 3:15
GHS—Ford 16 pass from Fordham (Turner kick), 1:16
FBHS—Boudreau 5 pass from C. Shaw (Ellis kick), :08
FBHS—J. Shaw 17 run (Ellis kick), 9:45
GHS—Turner 22 field goal, 5:24
FBHS—J. Shaw 3 run (Ellis kick), 2:08
GHS—Adetona 10 pass from Fordham (Turner kick), 11:08
FBHS—J. Shaw 3 run (Ellis kick), 8:22
FBHS—Sykes 16 pass from J. Shaw (Ellis kick), 4:52
FBHS—Kimbrough 8 run (Ellis kick), 1:55
First downs 21 20
Rushes-yards 46-315 28-169
Passing yards 174 335
Comp.-Att.-Int. 15-22-1 25-41-0
Total yards 491 404
Fumbles-lost 1-1 1-1
Punts-avg. 2-40 3-24
Penalties-yards 3-45 7-65
Rushing: Flowery Branch, J. Shaw 31-235, Kimbrough 9-44, C. Shaw 4-33, Earls 1-1, Cross 1-2. Gainesville, Harris 16-96, Fordham 9-46, Rucker 2-26, Ford 1-1.
Passing: Flowery Branch, J. Shaw 14-21-1 169, C. Shaw 1-1-0 5. Gainesville, Fordham, 24-41-0 335.
Receiving: Flowery Branch, Kimbrough 4-50, Boudreau 4-30, C. Shaw 2-16, Palmer 1-33, Sykes 2-26, Buice 1-11, Coxworth 1-8. Gainesville, Ford 13-145, Adetona 7-153, Famiano 1-7, Tiller 1-11, Johnson 1-19, Tewksbury 1-11, Boudreau 1-9.