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Flowery Branch's big man in the middle
Flowery Branch defensive tackle Tevin Keith is a force in the middle for the Falcons.

Tickets on sale

Tickets for the Class AAA state championship game between Flowery Branch and Cairo are on sale at Flowery Branch High School from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. through Friday. Pre-sell tickets are $15 (cash only). Tickets at the gate will be $20.

Kickoff for Saturday’s state title game is 5 p.m.

Flowery Branch is asking its fans to help line Hog Mountain Road and Spout Springs Road with signs and banners all the way to Interstate 985 for players to see on their way to the state title at the Georgia Dome on Saturday. The team will depart Flowery Branch at 12:30 p.m.

FLOWERY BRANCH — At 6-foot-6, 310 pounds, it’s hard to miss Tevin Keith. But that doesn’t mean he’s never overlooked.

The senior defensive tackle for Flowery Branch is surrounded on either side of the defensive line by Division-I college prospects Izaan Cross and Daniel Drummond. They get most of the attention, but that’s fine by Keith.

"I look next to me and I see Izaan, and I look the other way and I see Ben Clark, the other defensive tackle, and I see Drummond," Keith said. "I just feel like our line is one of the best."

It’s a group that dominates the headlines, the stat sheet and often the opponent. It’s Cross, Drummond and Clark that account for the top three sack totals on the team, so they get the glory. But Keith’s got no problem with that either. He’s got a role to play and he’s happy doing that.

There was a time, though, when it looked like Keith’s football career might be finished before his senior year even started. A near-catastrophic knee injury suffered last year severely limited Keith’s mobility and left his playing future in doubt.

"He doesn’t have a lot of speed, and especially early on when we were doing our running, he was coming in last," Flowery Branch defensive coordinator Chris Griffin said. "And we preach if you’re going to play, you’re going to have to work your way to the front of the line.

"It’s been a slow process, but through all that we’ve learned that he’s got one job, and that’s what he does."

Simply put, Keith’s job is to cause a pile of bodies at the line of scrimmage.

"Basically, all I do is come in there and clog up the middle and try to make plays to help us win games," Keith said.

More specifically, Keith’s job is to make life difficult for the opponent’s pulling guards. Odds are, if you’ve seen a trap play go awry against the Falcons this year, either directly or indirectly, Keith had a hand in it.

"We don’t expect him to chase down the sweep, we don’t expect him to sack the quarterback," Griffin said. "And he’s learned what his job is, and the kids respect him for that, because you don’t have to worry about those gaps where he’s lined up. He doesn’t have to make a lot of plays, but there’s been several times where we’ve been watching film and we say ‘hey, who was that?’ Well, that was Tevin. He’s got a darn wingspan of about eight feet and he’s got a strong grip, so if he can get his hand on you, a lot of times you’re going to come down."

The Falcons (12-2) will need every play they can get out of Keith and the rest of his defensive teammates Saturday when they take on Cairo in the state championship game. The Syrupmakers (13-0) feature an explosive offensive trio in quarteback Angelo Pease and running backs Reginald Bryant and Ronnie Wooten. Bryant leads the team with 1,555 rushing yards, while Pease and Wooten add 778 and 717 rushing yards respectively. As a team, Cairo averages just short of 250 rushing yards 110 passing yards per game.

It may be the biggest challenge the Falcons have face yet, but for Flowery Branch, which has reeled off four straight playoff wins on the road, the routine remains the same.

"Nothing has really changed," Keith said. "We just come to practice every day and try to get better. We’ve been doing this same stuff all year."

It’s worked well so far. The Falcons have improved seemingly week by week, and are coming off their first shutout of the season, a 28-0 win over LaGrange in the quarterfinals in which they limited the Grangers to 185 yards of total offense.

"It’s been amazing," Keith said. "Everybody calls us ‘the Road Warriors,’ and we’ve just been living up to the name. It’s been a fun experience every week, going on the road and going into a hostile environment and just taking it to ’em."

And even though sometimes you might have to look hard to see the biggest player on the field, Keith has done his part in making sure the 2008 Falcons get one more chance to shock the state.

"I just love playing football. Anytime I get to snap on the pads and snap up the helmet, it’s fun to me."

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