North Hall and Flowery Branch are both riding a wave of momentum heading into tonight’s matchup at Falcons Field.
The Trojans (3-2, 2-0 Region 7A-AAA) have rebounded with subregion wins against Creekview and White County, after early season loses to Class AA’s No. 1-ranked Buford and Class AAA’s sixth-ranked Gainesville. Flowery Branch (5-1, 2-0 Region 7B-AAA) has continued to get better offensively all year since its opening day loss to Stephens County. The Falcons have averaged 48 points the past two weeks in subregion victories.
Now these two are going head-to-head in South Hall to see which one stays on an upswing heading into the remainder of their respective subregion schedules. This has been a close rivalry the past couple of seasons, except for a couple of lopsided wins for North Hall when Flowery Branch first opened its doors.
"It’s definitely a plus to have a lot to go out there and play for," North Hall senior quarterback Blayne Gilmer said. "Both teams (North Hall and Flowery Branch) have been two of the best in the region the past few years, so naturally there’s going to be competitive games."
Playoff implications are certainly at play, even though Flowery Branch and North Hall play in opposite subregions. The Trojans and Falcons both have a chance to win the Region 7-AAA title. The winner of this game certainly has a big leg up with a crowded field of teams at the top in 7-AAA.
Right now, North Hall, Flowery Branch, Gainesville and Chestatee all are undefeated in subregion play. West Forsyth and Lumpkin County are both locked up at 1-1 in subregion play.
Flowery Branch has a more direct road to the region title. The Falcons need a win against North Hall and Gainesville to avoid any type of possible tie-breaker situations. Flowery Branch and Gainesville square-off in the final game of the regular season on Nov. 7.
North Hall almost has to have a win against Flowery Branch to have any realistic shot at winning the region title, since the Trojans lost head-to-head against the Red Elephants. Then, the Trojans would need Flowery Branch to beat the Red Elephants.
"If that happens, then we’d win our side and be the region champs," North Hall coach Bob Christmas said.
Of course, there is an exception to every rule. In 2006, North Hall was counted out for the 7-AAA title after a loss head-to-head against Gainesville. But the Trojans rebounded the next week with a win against Flowery Branch, and then got some help as the Red Elephants struggled down the stretch that season, putting the Trojans in the top spot at the end of the year.
Christmas likes being in the position to play for a region title with his relatively young Trojans team that only has five returning starters from last season’s trip to the state semifinals. Last week’s 356 yards of offense and 20 first downs against White County, matched by a solid defensive performance went a long way to confirming his belief that he still had a lot of talent on board for the ride this season.
"We have seven seniors starting for the first time, and I knew it would take time for us to grow up," Christmas said. "But I like the way our football team’s playing right now.
"They’re working extremely hard, and I just really enjoy coaching this team."
Flowery Branch looks practically unstoppable right now on offense. The Falcons scored 42 points in a hurry last week, in what turned out to be a lopsided victory against West Hall. Flowery Branch senior fullback and Times Elite 11 pick Daniel Drummond set a new single-game school rushing record with 244 yards and three touchdowns on seven carries.
Drummond, who is verbally committed to play fullback at Georgia Tech, has a team-high in the running game (550 yards, five TDs) and is also a leader from his defensive end spot. Flowery Branch junior quarterback Connor Shaw is also a big playmaker passing (734 yards, 9 TDs) and rushing (340 yards, 6 TDs).
"Flowery Branch is tough because they have a lot of weapons," Christmas added. "They have two players that are for sure Division I players."