After what Flowery Branch coach Lee Shaw called a "heartbreaking" loss last Friday night to Creekview, the Falcons were successful in getting the bad taste out of their mouths.
Senior quarterback Connor Shaw passed for 201 yards and three touchdowns and sophomore running back Imani Cross ran for 138 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Falcons to a 48-12 win over Chestatee on Friday night at War Eagles Stadium.
"Any time you get back on a winning track, it’s great," Shaw said. "Especially after the heartbreak of last week and not knowing how the guys are going to respond.
"They did respond though and did it well."
Following a stalled first drive that resulted in the Falcons’ only punt of the night, Flowery Branch (3-1) was able to take advantage of fumbles on back-to-back Chestatee drives to take an early lead.
Cory Sanderson recovered the first fumble at the 50-yard line. Six plays later, Shaw ran in from the 3-yard line to give his team the lead.
A fumble on Chestatee’s (1-2) ensuing possession, recovered by the Falcons’ Mykah Hester, was capitalized on quickly by the Falcons. Shaw threw his first touchdown on the first play after the turnover, a 27-yard strike to Rodriquez Frazier.
"Any time you turn the ball over, it’s going to be hard to win," Chestatee coach Stan Luttrell said. "Once the momentum shifts, everybody starts playing on their heels."
Not immediately, however, as the War Eagles scored on a 53-yard run by Ben Souther on their ensuing possession to make it 14-6.
"At times, we looked really good," Luttrell said. "But when we’d get something going, we’d make a mistake."
Flowery Branch responded by scoring on its next two possessions.
The first was set up by a fake punt that Cross ran 6 yards for a first down. Four plays later, Shaw passed for his second touchdown, a 15-yard throw to Logan Conley.
Conley finished as the team’s leading receiver with two catches for 48 yards. Darius Kimbrough had three receptions for 47 yards and tight end Byron Keith had a 45-yard touchdown catch.
"I’m super proud of the kids on our team who are team players and not the every game standouts," Shaw said. "They come out every day and play hard and had big games for us tonight.
"Logan (Conley) was outstanding and Byron (Keith) didn’t just catch a touchdown, he did an outstanding job blocking and sprung Imani (Cross) so he could get some big yardage."
The Falcons’ final score of the first half came after a defensive stand that resulted in the War Eagles turning it over on downs. Cross scored the first of his three touchdowns from 5 yards out to cap an eight-play, two-minute drive.
Cross got his other two touchdowns on the Falcons’ first two possessions of the second half. The first was a 75-yard run on their first play from scrimmage in the third quarter; the second came four minutes later from the 5.
In between Cross’ two scores, Souther picked up his second touchdown on a 1-yard run. The senior running back finished with 193 yards on 28 carries.
"We got a group of young men that are fighting and are going to continue to get better," Luttrell said.
After the Flowery Branch defense got the ball back on the War Eagles’ third turnover on downs, Shaw again made sure his team capitalized, hitting Keith for a 45-yard touchdown on the first play after the turnover.
"This was a typical rivalry game, and my hats go off to Chestatee. They’re a well-coached group," Shaw said. "We just happened to get the upper hand this time.
"We played team ball tonight and there was a renewed energy on the sidelines. Our kids played for each other tonight."
Flowery Branch opens up subregion play at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Johnson.
"Any time you, win that’s momentum," Shaw said. "Hopefully we’ll continue to build it instead of having another setback."
Chestatee returns to action at 7:30 p.m. Friday when it plays host to Pickens.