As Flowery Branch quarterback David Renard prepared to take the field down by a point with two minutes left in Friday’s home contest against Gainesville, there was only one thought going through his head.
“I knew that this is where great teams are made,” he said. “If we were going to go out there and make the score, then we’re a great team.”
Renard and the rest of the Falcons offense proved their greatness late, putting together a seven-play, 75-yard touchdown drive capped off by a 27-yard pass from Renard to tight end Sal Sengson with a minute remaining that lifted Flowery Branch (2-1) to a 29-22 victory over the Red Elephants (1-1).
“Our players kept their composure,” Falcons coach Ben Hall said after the game. “They didn’t panic. We had to use timeouts in timely situations, and David Renard did a great job leading us down the field.”
Renard finished the game completing 19 of 26 passes for 367 yards and a three touchdowns, including 4 of 7 for 75 yards and a score on the game-winning drive.
The dramatic finish was set up by a 16-yard touchdown pass from Gainesville quarterback Gionni Williams to tight end Samaj Brown that brought the Red Elephants to within a point of the Falcons with 2:20 left to play. Williams connected with Brown on a two-point conversion to put Gainesville on top for the first time in the game 22-21.
Williams finished the contest going 19 of 31 for 207 yards and a touchdown through the air and adding 95 yards and a score on the ground, but it wasn’t enough to power the Red Elephants to a win.
Flowery Branch built an early lead in the game with a 24-yard touchdown pass from Renard to Baxley O’Brien halfway through the first quarter. Gainesville would answer shortly later with a 20-yard rushing touchdown from Williams, but the Falcons would retake the lead going into the half on Renard’s second touchdown of the night — this one a 21-yard strike to senior Connor Larson.
Flowery Branch extended the lead to 21-7 off a 5-yard rush from Myles Ivey early in the third quarter. And while Gainesville battled back with a rushing score from Naim Cheeks and Williams’ late touchdown pass to Brown, the Falcons managed to eke out a score when they needed it most.
“We all played amazing,” Renard said. “We came together and showed some big heart out there. We played great.”EXPLOSIVE TIGHT END DUO
It’s not every game a team has two wide receivers go over 100 yards, and it’s even rarer to see a pair of tight ends hit the century mark, but that’s exactly what happened for Flowery Branch in Friday’s win.
Baxley O’Brien finished the night with seven receptions for 116 yards and a touchdown for the Falcons, while Sal Sengson contributed four catches for 120 yards and the game-winning score.
“They’re my go-to guys,” Renard said of the tight end duo. “I know they’re always going to catch it. That last touchdown was all Sal. I made an easy throw and he made a great play. ”
After the game, Hall said the team’s offensive game plan was geared heavily toward using both tight ends, depending on which one the Red Elephants turned their attention toward.
O’Brien started the night with two catches for 64 yards and a touchdown on Flowery Branch’s second drive of the game, and Sengson followed that up with a big, 71-yard reception early in the second quarter.
The two tight ends combined for all 75 receiving yards on Flowery Branch’s game-winning drive.IVEY STAYING STEADY
It wasn’t a flashy night for Flowery Branch running back Myles Ivey, but it was an effective one.
With Jaizen Ellingham taking a precautionary day off due to a “slight ding in his shoulder,” according to Hall, Ivey took virtually all the running back touches for the Falcons, finishing the night with 70 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries against a tough Gainesville defensive front. He also had an 11-yard reception.
Ivey’s long run on the day was just 15 yards, but he picked up four first downs and also scored a touchdown that would prove crucial to the Falcons’ victory in the end.
Hall said that Ellingham would be back in the team’s lineup following its bye next week, but he was still pleased with the way Ivey handled the feature role.
“He’s a tough nut,” Hall said. “He ran hard and got some hard yards for us.”