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Flowery Branch boys advance to second round
Flowery Branch High’s Kyle Ellis, right, and Blessed Trinity’s Nick Lopez try and control the ball during the first half of Thursday evening’s Class AAA playoff match at Falcon Field.


Flowery Branch coach Jeremy Purdy talks about his team's first-round win.

FLOWERY BRANCH — Led by a precision-based offense that maintained possessions throughout the game, a midfield determined to win every ball and a stonewall-type defense, Region 7-AAA champion, and Class AAA No. 3-ranked, Flowery Branch beat the fourth seed out of Region 5-AAA, and the 14th-ranked team in Class AAA Blessed Trinity 3-0 in the first round of the Class AAA state playoffs Thursday night at Falcon Field.

“It’s been a great team this year, phenomenal team,” Flowery Branch coach Jeremy Purdy said. “And I’ve really enjoyed coaching them. I look forward to the coming week.”

With the win, the Falcons move on to the second round of the state tournament where they will face the No. 3 seed out of Region 6-AAA Sandy Creek at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Falcons Field. Sandy Creek beat Apalachee 2-1 in its first-round state playoff game Wednesday.

The Falcons (16-1) defense was stellar, especially in the first half, as they held Blessed Trinity (5-8) to only three first-half shots on goal and cleared balls up field with ease, which allowed Flowery Branch’s offense to put consistent pressure on the Titans.

Flowery Branch’s midfield, missing starters Johnny Venegas and Jerson Umanzor who are out for two games because of red cards, won ball after ball and pushed up field keeping the pressure off the Falcons’ defense.

“This game gives us a lot of confidence (heading into the next state game) knowing the underclassmen could step it up,” Purdy said.

Edgar Madrano and freshman Michael Smith were given the challenge of replacing Venegas and Umanzor in the lineup.

“All year long there’s been somebody to step it up, each game,” Purdy said. “And once again it was somebody else, another undersclassman stepped it up. Michael Smith, he played great and he’s only a freshman.”

Flowery Branch’s first score came in the 17th minute after a foul by Blessed Trinity just outside the box gave the home team a direct kick from 15 yards out; David Patino took over from there and did exactly what was needed.

The senior forward kicked it directly in the goal, but not before the powerful shot richocheted off the hands of diving Blessed Trinity goalie Riley Lyons.

“At first (senior) Kyle (Ellis) said he was going to get it,” Patino said. “But I said that I wanted it. I took the shot and it was suprising, but it went in and that’s all that matters.”

The Falcons followed that first score with another near perfect execution, once again at the feet of Patino.

“I was worried (with a week and a half layoff between games) about trying to remain focused,” Purdy said. “The seniors helped us. We got together last night and discussed as a team what we needed to do, and I can’t say enough about our seniors this year.”

Patino, who would end the game having accounted in some way for all three goals scored by Flowery Branch, won the ball at midfield, beat his man up the right side of the field and played a perfect cross to Philip Abrahamson who one-touched the ball into the left side of the goal.

“Everybody played great,” Patino said. “We were passing the ball and communicating. Everybody stepped it up and we came out with win.”

The Falcons had 10 shots on goal in the first half.

The offensive pressure of Blessed Trinity increased dramatically in the first few minutes of the second half, the Titans doubled their first half shots on goal by the 20-minute mark.

“They came out fighting and I told the guys at halftime they would come out fighting,” Purdy said. “That first ten minutes kind of worried me there but our kids kind of settled down and we knew if we could get through those first ten minutes we would be ok.”

Get through the first ten minutes of the second half the Falcons did, proving the Titans offensive efforts futile. The Falcons’ defense, on the season, has given up only 18 goals and recorded eight shutouts.

The nail in the proverbial coffin came in the 39th minute when Patino scored his second goal of the game off a throw in by Ellis.

“He’s (Patino) been doing it all season long with his leadership on and off the field,” Purdy said. “He’s a quiet leader but he knows how to get his players to step it up and they really respond to him as emotional leader. “A lot of credit goes to him. He’s been a captain all year long and he solidified that title tonight.”

With the loss, Blessed Trinity’s fourth straight first-round state playoff exit, the Titans season is complete.