CHATTANOOGA — Connor Shaw’s 17-yard touchdown pass to Robby Boudreau with 52.6 seconds left to play lifted Flowery Branch to a thrilling 21-14 victory over Ridgeland on Friday night in the Class AAA state playoffs.
The Falcons (10-2) next play at Baldwin, a 29-19 winner over Shaw High, in the quarterfinal round.
On the winning play, Shaw rolled to his right, then back to his left and threw across his body to Boudreau, who adjusted his route and found an opening in the Ridgeland secondary in the corner of the end zone.
“That wasn’t how the play was designed,” Shaw said. “It was supposed to be a quick pass to the right, but we had a busted route. So I came back to my left and my receiver did a great job of finding an open spot. He made a heck of a play.”
Shaw, a junior, completed 12 of 17 passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns despite the frigid conditions. He was 4-of-4 on the 11-play winning drive, which started at the Falcons’ 19-yard line.
“That’s the coldest I’ve ever been in my life,” Shaw said. “It was so cold, it felt like I was in Green Bay. But I’m feeling pretty good right now.”
“It’s never easy to lose, no matter what the score is,” Ridgeland coach Mark Mariakis said. “To lose that way is especially tough. We knew their quarterback was the guy we had to stop. Give him credit. He made a great play at the end for his team when they needed it. It’s hard to cover for nine seconds.”
After a short kickoff, Ridgeland took over on its own 48-yard line with 45.4 seconds remaining. Two completions and a short run from Carlan Bowman moved the ball to the Flowery Branch 26-yard line.
On the next play, Carlan Bowman’s pass fell just off the fingertips of a diving Mike Bowman in the back of the end zone.
The next pass also fell incomplete, and on fourth down the quarterback was flushed from the pocket and tackled after an 11-yard gain to the 15 as time expired.
“We were going for the end zone,” Mariakis said. “When you have a guy like Mike you try to get it to him, and we almost did. He just wasn’t quite able to come up with the catch.”
Mike Bowman hauled in a 15-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter to knot the score at 7 after Flowery Branch scored on its opening possession.
The Falcons forged ahead 14-7 midway through the second quarter on the first of Shaw’s two touchdown passes.
The score remained the same until late in the third when Ridgeland pulled even on a 1-yard touchdown run from Carlan Bowman, setting the stage for Shaw’s late heroics.