No matter the down and distance, the Flowery Branch wide receivers and tight ends create a bunch of matchup problems for the opposition.
The fifth-ranked Falcons wide receivers are regularly on the receiving end of a long touchdown pass from junior quarterback David Renard.
Flowery Branch also has two tight ends have also made their fair share of impressive catches, none more timely than Sal Sengson’s game-winning touchdown grab against Gainesville early in the season.
With seniors Connor Larson and Ryan Lusco on the outside, along with tight ends Baxley O’Brien and Sengson, the Falcons (8-2) can get the ball down the field and into the end zone on a hurry. Case in point: Flowery Branch posted 48 first-half points to wrap up the regular season against East Hall on Nov. 18.
However, Flowery Branch coach Ben Hall describes his top four receivers as a selfless group that’s only concerns are giving Renard time to make plays and finish drives by putting points on the board.
“They’re all very hard-working kids and have kind of an offensive-linemen mentality,” Hall said. “As long as they get the job done, that’s all that they care about.”
“It all comes down to the fact that we have great chemistry out there,” Sengson said.
Up next, Flowery Branch hosts Luella (6-4) to open the Class 4A state tournament at 6 p.m. Saturday.
Larson is the leader with 45 catches for 787 yards and four touchdowns, while Lusco has come on late in the season with his three-touchdown effort against Madison County, and stands at 317 yards and five scores in 2020.
Meanwhile, Sengson provided the deciding catch in the thriller against the Red Elephants, while O’Brien has caught 23 balls for 434 yards and five touchdowns.
Lusco’s first touchdown of the season was an over-the-shoulder grab against Cedar Shoals that went for a score, then added a streaking 50-yard touchdown in the first quarter against East Hall to wrap up the regular season last week.
So, no matter who you guard for Flowery Branch, there are going to be matchups that it will hope to exploit. With a bevy of talent to work with, Renard has completed 67% of his throws for 2,147 yards with 18 touchdowns and only five interceptions.
Renard’s development has been a key after having a year under his belt after starting every game in 2019, after expected starter Elijah Gainey endured a season-ending knee injury.
Now, under Renard, a veteran Falcons squad is thriving.
“Against us, the safeties have to choose if they want to cover the tight ends over the middle or take us on the exterior,” Lusco said.
Flowery Branch enters the postseason with the No. 2 seed after winning five straight in Region 8-4A, after dropping the opener 40-10 to region champion and second-ranked Jefferson.
In the postseason, the Falcons should present matchup problems against any opponent.
“I think it will be tough for anyone to stop us in the postseason, given the amount of elements we have to our offense,” Lusco said.
Each receiver brings a unique skill set.
Larson is a precise route runner with dependable hands and isn’t timid about going across the middle to catch the ball in traffic.
Lusco has the breakaway speed if he gets into one-on-one coverage on the perimeter.
“Having those two on the outside really puts the cornerbacks in a bind,” Sengson said.
And Sengson and O’Brien are both physical playmakers who are adept at coming down with the 50-50 ball.
“They’re all great teammates,” Hall said. “Having them all involved certainly takes some of the pressure off our running game, even though we’re pretty balanced running and passing it.”
Flowery Branch’s proficiency in the passing game is especially important, given that senior running back Jaizen Ellingham has dealt with injury issues this season. Sophomore Myles Ivey has stepped in and rushed for 593 yards and five touchdowns.
However, the Falcons will remain a tough out in the playoffs as long as their passing game continues to move the chains with such regularity.
“David’s been playing with a lot of confidence at quarterback,” Hall said. “No question that having those guys at wide receiver and tight end play so well has taken pressure off of our running game.”
Gainesville at Archer, 7:30 p.m., Friday
Flowery Branch vs. Luella, 6 p.m. Saturday
Cherokee Bluff vs. LaFayette, 7:30 p.m., Friday
North Hall vs. North Murray, 7:30 p.m., Friday
Class A private school
Lakeview Academy at North Cobb Christian, 7:30 p.m., Friday