FLOWERY BRANCH — Flowery Branch senior defensive end Izaan Cross resisted the temptation of letting the lure of college recruiting get in the way of his final season of high school football. It seems to have panned out pretty well for Cross, who holds scholarship offers from some of the biggest Division I schools in the country, and who was a driving force for the Falcons’ run to the state title game.
"The main reason I waited is that I wanted to take all my visits," Cross said. "I was so busy before, that I didn’t have a chance."
He was racking up offers left and right leading into Flowery Branch’s 2008 season. Still, he held off on starting to take official visits and making an early verbal declaration where he would play in 2009. But now that the season is over, its time for the 6-foot-3, 253-pound lineman to make a decision in the next 50 days where he’ll play his college ball. Cross holds 20 offers with schools like Georgia Tech, Clemson, North Carolina, Maryland, Central Florida, Oklahoma and Florida State highlighting the list.
Cross — who’s rated No. 18 among strongside defensive ends by Rivals.com — already has visits lined up to Georgia Tech, Clemson and Central Florida. The only self-imposed timetable he has on making a commitment is the mandated Feb. 4, 2009 signing day for seniors. Cross is going to forego playing basketball for the Falcons this year in order to make visits and put time into thinking about his decision.
"If I find the right school before signing day, I’ll go ahead and commit," Cross said.
While Cross and his teammates are already thinking about the future, they are also starting to realize how special Flowery Branch’s season was. A season that ended in the Class AAA state title game last Saturday. It was the first time a school from Hall County played in the state title game since Gainesville did so in 1982.
Falcons senior running back Daniel Drummond, who is already verbally committed to Georgia Tech, still thinks about the team’s summer camp at Currahee Mountain, outside of Toccoa, which built the foundation for the season with the bonds this team made.
"This season was just so much fun," Cross said. "We were a part of school history."
That bond helped this program go two rounds further in the playoffs than previously achieved in school history. Flowery Branch had to do things the hard way to advance to the state title game, winning all four state playoff games on the road. The Falcons even came from behind in the state quarterfinals with a win against then No. 2-ranked Baldwin.
"We just kept believing in ourselves all season," Drummond said.
Now Flowery Branch’s departing seniors hope they’ve set the bar high enough that the returning players to the program have another shot at winning the state title. Cross says that eight players from the Falcons’ defense will have to be replaced for next season.
"We’ve set the bar high with this program," Drummond said. "I think the younger players coming back have seen how hard they have to work and what it takes to be successful."