There’s no place like home, unless you’re a Flowery Branch Falcon. In which case, there’s no place like somebody else’s home.
Flowery Branch defeated Grady, 35-21, Friday at Lakewood Stadium in Atlanta. It advanced the Falcons to the Class AAA quarterfinals for a second straight year and extended an even more impressive postseason streak: Flowery Branch has now won six consecutive playoff games on their opponents’ home turf.
The Falcons (9-3, No. 4 7-AAA) won four straight on the road last season en route to the state championship game. Cairo won the state title, but that game was played in the Georgia Dome — a neutral site.
Flowery Branch opened the 2009 playoffs at Chattanooga’s Finley Stadium against 6-AAA champs Ridgeland. While not Ridgeland’s usual home field, it was considered as such when the Falcons visited.
This week, the Falcons head south to play at Carver-Columbus (11-1, No. 1 2-AAA), a semifinalist in 2008 that has been at or near the top of the Class AAA state rankings throughout the season. The Tigers’ only loss this season came against Northside-Warner Robins, a Class AAAAA quarterfinalist, by a score of 21-12.
DEFENDERS OF CITY PARK: Though often overshadowed by one of the state’s most prolific offenses, the Gainesville defense has been equally as dominant this year.
After a 41-10 win over Dunwoody on Friday at City Park in which they gave up a late touchdown with a 38-point lead, the Red Elephants are yielding only 6.6 points per game (second in Class AAA to St. Pius X’s 6.2).
Through the first two rounds of the playoffs, Gainesville (12-0, No. 1 Region 7-AAA) is giving up just 97 yards per game, including 118 rushing yards on 65 carries (1.8 per attempt).
On Friday, the defense also helped jumpstart the offense.
Trailing for the first time all season, Gainesville quickly turned a 3-0 deficit into a 41-3 lead with a fumble and interception that set up touchdowns, and an A.J. Johnson interception returned for a score.
This week, the Red Elephants will attempt to stretch their home winning streak to 16 games when defending Class AAA state champion Cairo (9-3, No. 2 1-AAA) comes to town.
IT’S HARD TO SCORE WITHOUT THE BALL: North Hall had trouble establishing an offensive rhythm in Friday’s 17-3 loss to St. Pius X. It isn’t hard to understand why, considering the Trojans had the ball for only five possessions in the game and ran just 29 plays.
For perspective, using its ground control offense, St. Pius ran twice that many; and North Hall had 66 offensive snaps in its first-round win.
On average, the other five teams in action in Northeast Georgia on Friday (Gainesville, Dunwoody, Flowery Branch, Grady, Buford and Jefferson) had 53 offensive snaps.