Flowery Branch coach Lee Shaw could attach a positive spin on its loss to Cairo right after Saturday night’s state title game. There is history to back up the point he made.
As disappointing as losing the Class AAA state title game was, the Falcons’ coach immediately made a connection between playing for a state title and the fast-track for success their program is on after only seven seasons.
Simply put, progress comes with some bumps along the road. Still, Flowery Branch is already on the state-wide radar as one of the premier programs in Class AAA, even though it is one of the younger schools.
"These guys have set the bar high now," Shaw said after the game. "Sometimes you have to experience hurt at this level to know what it takes to finish here.
"Just like the first time we made the playoffs, even though we lost that game in the third round at Dougherty, they experienced what it took to get to the third round and what it would take to get past that and now they’re in the Dome."
Just look across the landscape of the great high school football programs across the state and you’ll see they all had to pay the price to become eventual state champs. Flowery Branch fans need look no further than the team that was on the other sideline in the state title game, Cairo, to see the point.
The Syrupmakers lost the 2007 state title game to Carver-Columbus. One year later, Cairo finished 14-0 and won the state title. And the eventual state champs didn’t make an automatic leap to the state title game. They made a general progression with trips to the second round of the playoffs in 2004 and 2006 before making its deep postseason runs.
Now Flowery Branch will have some positions to fill next season with key players from this year graduating, but it does have a pretty strong nucleus in place to compete for a Region 7-AAA title and chance at a deep playoff run next year.
There’s a great example of the good that can come from losing a state title game real right here in our area. Buford lost to Commerce in the 2000 Class A state title game to Commerce. All that loss did for the Wolves was set in motion a run of five state titles over the past eight years.
Great teams from all around the state have felt the sting of defeat before winning it all. Northside-Warner Robins lost the 2005 state title game, and then it went on to win 30 games and two state titles in 2006 and 2007.
Making progress deep in the playoffs happens even before the state title game.
North Hall had to play in the state quarterfinals twice (2004 and 2006), before it was able to break through to play in the state semifinals in 2007.
Flowery Branch’s program is now in a great position. It can use an experience like this season’s postseason as a great building block for the future.
"Hopefully, our team has set the standard high enough now that these young guys coming back will follow in the footsteps of what this senior class did," Shaw said.