"A whole bunch of silence."
That is how Gainesville senior running back Kendrick Harris characterized the mood in the visitors’ locker room after the Red Elephants 35-19 loss to Chestatee last Friday night, their second loss in a row.
"There wasn’t much talking at all," Harris said, "everyone was just moping around."
Last Friday night marked only the second time in the last seven seasons that Gainesville had lost two games in a row.
Approximately seven miles away, down Mount Vernon Road, the mood in the visitors’ locker room at The Brickyard wasn’t all that different.
"We were very disappointed," Flowery Branch coach Lee Shaw said. "We knew we had just played a good football team and we were honest with our players ... I told them, ‘you got whipped.’"
The Falcons had just suffered their worst loss in two years, 41-14 to North Hall.
"Monday and Tuesday were rough for us just because we were coming off our first loss and got embarrassed and got our feelings hurt a little bit," said Flowery Branch senior quarterback and Middle Tennessee recruit Jaybo Shaw. "To be a good football team though you’ve got to forget about stuff and move on."
Rebounding from disappointment and having learned a lesson is imperative in sports.
"The mood this week at practice has been great," said Gainesville coach Bruce Miller. "I think our kids realize that they didn’t play all that great last Friday night and I think, for the most part, that they have accepted the challenge that’s ahead."
Harris reiterated his coach’s sentiments and added that he and his teammates had been, "banging on each other all week," in preparation for tonight’s showdown at Bobby Gruhn Field with Flowery Branch.
"We don’t want to talk about those games (North Hall and Chestatee)," said Harris. "We are focused on Flowery Branch and we can make another statement by beating them."
"We have been trying all week to regain our focus," said Gainesville senior defensive lineman Matthew Shipman. "(This week’s) practice has been real intense."
The Falcons have also spent the week recovering mentally and physically from their disappointing loss a week ago.
"We have been focused on getting back to what we normally do, which is just executing," said Jaybo Shaw. "If we are executing the way we should I don’t think anybody can stop us, just like Gainesville’s offense."
For the Falcons’ defense, which gave up more points to the Trojans than they have given up to all other opponents combined this season, today’s game offers the opportunity to prove it can stop a powerful offense.
"We’ve come out here this week and gotten after it," said Smith. "We’ve just been working on getting right for the game at City Park."
"Getting right" for Flowery Branch’s defense means getting to the ball and, according to Smith’s fellow outside linebacker, senior Daniel Mendez, that is what he and his teammates have been working towards in preparation for Gainesville.
"Nothing’s going to be easy against them (Gainesville)," said Mendez. "We have to come out to play every play and have our head in it whether it’s a run or pass. We’ve been working on our speed this week and making sure we’re getting to the ball in a hurry."
Flowery Branch’s defense is, through six games, allowing 13.2 points per game.
"Getting right" for Flowery Branch’s offense, which is averaging 30 points per game, means execution.
"We want to try and execute our offense better and not get into second-and-long, third-and-long situations and we want to keep our hands on the ball," said Lee Shaw. "We have also focused this week on making sure that our receivers know that if they drop one ball, they are going to catch the next one."
Gainesville’s plan for tonight?
"We’ve got to shut down Jaybo (Shaw)," said Shipman, who assists on a defense that is allowing 19 points per game.
"Flowery Branch actually has three weapons," said the Red Elephants’ coach. "You’ve got to stop their run, their passing game and then Jaybo and it’s a difficult task."
Miller also noted that his young offensive line, who played beyond their years against North Hall and then turned around the next week and gave up five sacks to Chestatee, has grown up as a result of the two losses.
"The offensive line we have responds well each week," he said. "They just play hard and that’s what I want, for our kids to line up each week and play hard."
Gainesville has not lost three games in a row since 2000. Flowery Branch hasn’t lost two in a row since 2004.
"Our mindset is business as usual this week," said Falcons’ senior linebacker Jimmy Smith. "We know everything that’s happened before good and bad ... none of that matters."
"We’ve never beaten Gainesville at City Park," Jaybo Shaw said, "and that’s what is the big deal to us,"
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