Trying to put into context Flowery Branch’s playoff success is nearly impossible. I was part of the vast majority that felt like the Falcons’ (10-3) season would come to an end when they faced off with No. 4-ranked Carver-Columbus in the state quarterfinals last Friday night in Columbus.
I really should have known better. To think I could have doubted Flowery Branch’s ability to win was a no-no, considering I was right there following this team all the way to the state finals against Cairo in 2008.
The Falcons did in fact go down to Columbus and win 35-33 against Carver, ensuring their second consecutive berth in the state semifinals.
This time around they’ll be a heavy underdog, once again, against Class AAA’s top ranked Gainesville (13-0) Friday night at Bobby Gruhn Field.
Of course, at this point Flowery Branch probably thrives off being the underdog. In the past two seasons, they’ve won a staggering seven road playoff games — all against teams with a higher playoff seeding.
The Falcons will certainly be counted out by most, except for their most partisan fans, this week against the Red Elephants, who won the head-to-head regular season matchup 49-17 just four weeks ago.
But do you think, even for a minute, Flowery Branch cares about what others think about whether they have any business winning a game at this point? Heck no.
I’d challenge anyone to say that the Falcons haven’t played a difficult slate of games in the playoffs. As the No. 4 seed from Region 7-AAA, they’ve had an uphill climb and defeated a pair of ranked opponents (No. 9 Ridgeland and No. 4 Carver-Columbus) and a pretty good Grady team, too.
That’s more difficult than the road Region 7-AAA champion Gainesville traveled to get to the state semifinals with three wins against unranked opponents.
The Falcons have lived up to their reputation as Road Warriors, heart breakers and party crashers all in the same breath. They’re only one more big upset away from playing for a state title again this season.
Not too shabby for a team that snuck in the back door to the playoffs as the No. 4 seed and that was only obtained by a last-ditch, last-minute win against West Forsyth late in the regular season.
Ah, but that’s the second major fallacy about trying to put a finger on why Flowery Branch is so successful: This isn’t the same Falcons squad that was extremely vulnerable in the regular season.
Flowery Branch had a glaring weakness in their run defense in the regular season, which was only magnified against run-based offenses such as North Hall, Creekview and West Forsyth.
Yet, in the state quarterfinals, the Falcons did enough to beat a team led by junior running back Isaiah Crowell, one of the top backs in the nation for the Class of 2011.
Now I fully expect Gainesville to win this highly anticipated matchup against Flowery Branch in the state semifinals. It just seems like the Red Elephants have played with a sense of destiny since the season started.
However, at the same time, it should also make Gainesville feel a little uneasy seeing Flowery Branch running out of the visitor’s locker room. The Falcons have made it clear they’ll play anyone, anywhere and at anytime.