CUMMING — Flowery Branch was finished Friday night. It was simple as that.
Trailing West Forsyth 51-47 with less than a minute to play, the Falcons were backed up into a fourth-and-20 at the Wolverines’ 42-yard line, and it was hard to imagine a realistic chance for a win.
But in a game that saw more than its share of wild moments, the wildest was yet to come.
Quarterback Connor Shaw took the snap on fourth down and a mile, scrambled and fired a missile downfield to Robby Boudreau, who hauled in the catch just inside the 20 and took off untouched for the end zone, giving the Falcons a lead with 49 seconds left.
Fourteen ticks later, Rodney Young came up with an interception of West Forsyth quarterback Chase Bender and the Falcons escaped with an amazing 54-51 victory.
"That wasn’t even the designed play," Falcons coach Lee Shaw said of the winning score.
"We had something else called and the pocket broke down, and Connor scrambled. And Robby Boudreau, who is as good as there is finding grass and finding open spots, he cut across the field and Connor found him.
"It reminds me of ... the game we won last year in the second round (of the state playoffs). They had the same kind of hook-up, but our kids just battled and I’m proud of them."
The final touchdown was the 10th lead change in a game that was a shame to see either team lose.
With the win, last year’s Class AAA state runners-up are assured of a return engagement in the playoffs. Flowery Branch improved to 7-2 on the year and 4-0 in Region 7-AAA’s Subregion B.
On the other side of the field, it was a heartbreaking result for the Wolverines (4-4, 2-2), not only for the closeness of the loss but because the result locked West Forsyth out of the state tournament.
Wolverines coach Frank Hepler saw nothing to criticize from his players, but wasn’t too happy with the decisive play.
"I’m very proud of (our guys). We outplayed them, we outcoached them, we did every phase
of the game. ... We can’t help another factor," the coach said.
"I thought (Shaw) was across the line (of scrimmage) there at the end and (the referees) didn’t call it, so that’s what we’ve got to go with."
Both defenses were burned early and often in the game, as the teams combined for 1,100 yards of offense.
Quarterback Shaw had a hand in every Falcon touchdown, passing for four and running for three. For the Wolverines, Ben Emert was the workhorse, running for 346 yards and five touchdowns.
"He does what it takes each game. I’m proud of him, I’m proud of the offensive line doing a great job," Hepler said of Emert’s performance.
"(Flowery Branch is) a good football team (with) a good quarterback, but I felt like we were better than them and we just didn’t make the play at the end and they did, so they get the ‘W.’"
For the Falcons’ coach, there was one bottom line at the end of the night.
"What a good momentum boost going into this last game against Gainesville, but one thing’s for certain — we’re back in the playoffs," coach Shaw said.