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Flowery Branch soars to 7-on-7 nationals
Flowery Branch High School football player Jay Rouse throws a pass during summer practice Tuesday. - photo by SARA GUEVARA | The Times

In 2008, the Flowery Branch football team earned the right to play for a state title.

This year, by winning the Georgia Invitational 7-on-7 tournament at Lassiter High School, the Falcons have earned the right to play for a national title.

"To get to the level we think we’re capable of getting to, we need to play bigtime teams," Flowery Branch defensive coordinator Chris Griffin said.

Friday-Sunday at the National Select 7-on-7 Tournament at Hoover High School in Alabama, Flowery Branch will get the opportunity to do just that.

Among those teams the Falcons will be competing against is Memphis University School out of Memphis, Tn., which went 13-0 on its way to a state title in 2008; Plant High our of Tampa, Fla., which finished last season 14-1 on its way to the program’s second Class AAAA state title in three years and Thomas Jefferson High out of Pennsylvania, which won its third Class AAA state title in five years in 2008 and went 15-1 on the season.

"Our kids are excited," Griffin said. "Anytime you can get the kids away from home, it’s fun. And on top of that, to be able to compete against the type of teams we’ll face, our kids thrive on that."

The tournament format will consist of four eight-team pools which will guarantee seven games per team in pool play. Teams will be seeded in the double elimination championship round, which starts Friday, based on their overall record from pool play.

"Before 7-on-7 started, their wasn’t a competition aspect to summer workouts," Griffin said. "This has been great for our guys and will hopefully continue to be with this tournament."

On their way to the title game at Lassiter, Flowery Branch beat two Walton teams, Chattahoochee, Henry County, Kell and South Lake, Fla.

"We were competing against (Class) AAAAA teams and to be able to compete and beat those teams no doubt has us feeling good as the season nears," Griffin said.

Flowery Branch showed its depth on the final day at Lassiter when three starters — Rodney Young, Javonte Meddow and Rodriquez Frazier — were on college visits. Young and Meddow to Middle Tennessee and Frazier to Auburn. Their places were taken by Destin Tipton, Darius Kimbrough and Mykah Hester and the Falcons didn’t miss a beat.

Flowery Branch beat Lassiter in the semifinals and finals to earn the state title.

In the first game, the Falcons scored on their first two possessions to take a 16-10 lead en route to a 20-11 victory and spot in the title game.

After losing 32-20 in the first game of the finals, Flowery Branch scored on its first three possession to take a 24-0 lead in the deciding game.

"The offense is looking good," Griffin said. "Connor’s leadership is going to be a big key our success this season and it’s been huge for our success this summer."

Despite Lassiter battling back to cut the deficit to 24-14, the Falcons were able to sustain their lead and get the 34-24 victory thanks in part to a late interception.

"Most of the time with defense, you have to watch film, get on the white board and practice just by defending against your own offense," Griffin said. "What these 7-on-7 tournaments do is give us a chance to see dozens of teams that run anything from the spread to the wing-T.

"We’ve seen it all so far this summer and have more to go. It’s not only a chance to get to see all the schemes and learn to defend them, but also learn to defend some of the best players around."

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