OAKWOOD — Flowery Branch coach Lee Shaw said it best when he described his team’s 52-24 win against Johnson on Friday night at Billy Ellis Memorial Stadium in Oakwood: “It was a sloppy night.”
The game featured a combined 249 yards of penalties between the two teams and a play that ended with eight flags thrown and several ejections.
“Anytime you play a rival game it’s going to be tough,” Shaw said. “You try to stay disciplined.
“This wasn’t the last emotional game we’ll play and hopefully our guys will learn from it.”
The Falcons (4-1, 1-0 Region 7B-AAA) came out hot, scoring on their first two possessions and four of their first five to go into halftime with a 28-3 advantage.
“We came in wound up,” Shaw said. “It was our first subregion game and we knew Johnson had a good football team with good athletes.
“It ended up being a great win for us.”
Sophomore running back Imani Cross finished the game with 161 yards rushing on 12 carries and two touchdowns. Senior quarterback Connor Shaw rushed for 111 yards and two touchdowns while hitting on 11 of his 19 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown.
The Flowery Branch offense wasn’t the only entity hitting on all cylinders, as the defense held Johnson to four three-and-outs on their first seven possessions including a four-play goal-line stand with the Knights (1-4, 0-1) threatening to score on first and goal from the 9-yard line.
The Knights, however, proved their resiliency, coming back in the second half despite the halftime deficit.
After recovering an onside kick to start the second half, Johnson drove down the field on nine plays to score on a 3-yard run by Mantevius Rucker.
After Flowery Branch scored on a 26-yard field goal by Billy Thompson on its ensuing possession, Johnson returned the favor, capping an 80-yard, six-play drive with a 6-yard score by Tre Dudley.
On that Knights’ drive, Falcons senior linebacker Cory Sanderson went down with an injury severe enough that he had to be taken from the field by ambulance. The Falcons’ play suffered for it as they were forced to punt for the first and only time in the game on their next possession.
After getting word from the hospital that Sanderson was fine, however, Flowery Branch’s offense and defense played with reinvigorated fervor as the Falcons scored on their next two possessions to put what had become a close game — with a score of 31-17 — out of reach.
“Anytime one of your guys goes down it puts you in disarray,” Shaw said. “But once we got word that he had movement and was OK, we got things back together.”
Flowery Branch went on to score one more touchdown, on a 1-yard run by senior Joshten Hopkins, as would Johnson, on a 24-yard pass from Anthony Prophet to Seth Spivey; but the game was over by then.
Prophet led Johnson with 163 yards rushing while hitting five of his 17 passes for 113 yards and a touchdown.
Flowery Branch and Johnson return to action at 7:30 p.m. Friday with the Falcons playing host to West Hall and Johnson playing host to Creekview.