Blake Sims found a new way into the end zone for Gainesville in its state semifinal game against Flowery Branch. On the opening kick off of the second half, and trailing 14-0, Sims returned the kick 96 yards for a Red Elephants’ touchdown.
While Sims, Gainesville’s senior quarterback, is best known for his running and passing, it was not the first time he scored on special teams this season. He also return a punt 80 yards for a touchdown this season against Johnson, and then again against Cairo in the state quarterfinals.
GAME OF INCHES: Flowery Branch senior quarterback Connor Shaw clearly knew where the first-down sticks were late in the fourth quarter. On a third-and-3 at the Falcons’ 24, Shaw scrambled to his left and took off with the ball and stretched as far as he could trying to pick up the necessary yardage. The attempt came up short despite his lunge with the ball extended in his hand. Gainesville retook possession, scoring the winning touchdown on the next drive with only 18 seconds left in the game.
RARE GOOSE EGG: Gainesville went into the locker room under unusual circumstances after failing to score in the opening two quarters. The last time the Red Elephants went scoreless in the opening half of a game was against Westminster, a 48-8 loss in the opening round of the 2007 playoffs.
The Red Elephants also failed to score in the second half of their state quarterfinal game against Cairo last Friday, making four consecutive quarters without scoring.
In the first half against Flowery Branch, Gainesville’s offense had a tough time putting a drive together. The Red Elephants were held to 24 yards passing in the first two quarters, thanks to pressure from Flowery Branch’s defensive line, which caused three interceptions.
Sims took control of things in the second half for the Red Elephants with the kickoff return TD and a touchdown pass for the Red Elephants.
SAME PLAYER, NEW NUMBER: Sims probably confused a few fans with the change in his jersey in the opening half. After his jersey was torn off with a hit near the sidelines in the first quarter, he was forced to switch jerseys with freshman quarterback Keontra Harrison.
EARLY TIPPING POINT: Flowery Branch senior receiver Robby Boudreau made a reception after tipping the ball to himself while falling down for a clutch Falcons first down in the second quarter. On the play with third-and-8 at the Gainesville 45, the Falcons’ receiver tipped the ball up and had the presence of mind to stay with the ball and make the catch as he hit the ground.
Boudreau made two more huge catches on the drive, including a 14-yard touchdown catch from Shaw to give the Falcons an early 7-0 lead. Boudreau was a dependable receiver for Flowery Branch down the stretch, including two key catches late in last week’s 35-33 state quarterfinal win over Carver-Columbus and a big catch against West Forsyth in the regular season to get the team into the playoffs.
BOOM GOES THE PUNT: Flowery Branch punter Will Monday was one of the Falcons’ top weapons all season the way he could flip the field with his leg. His 62-yard punt in the second quarter against Gainesville was one of the best examples all season.
Monday took a high snap and kicked it past Gainesville’s returner, who slipped on the wet grass, and the ball was downed at the 4. Three plays later, Flowery Branch senior linebacker Cory Sanderson intercepted the pass from Sims.