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Prep soccer: Flowery Branch advances to state semifinals
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Listen to Flowery Branch High boys soccer coach Jeremy Purdy discuss the Falcons' 1-0 win against LaGrange in the Class AAA state quarterfinals.
FLOWERY BRANCH — If Flowery Branch High senior Kyle Ellis hadn’t yet made a name for himself in his first year playing soccer for the Falcons, he certainly has now.

Ellis broke a scoreless tie with two minutes left in the game for Class AAA’s third-ranked Falcons to defeat LaGrange 1-0 in the quarterfinals of the Class AAA state soccer playoffs in Flowery Branch.

With the win, the Falcons (18-1-1) shut out their fourth-straight opponent and third in the playoffs. They advance to the state semifinals for the first time since 2006 and third time in school history, where they will play host to the Westminster/Hardaway winner on Tuesday.

“We set our goal at the beginning of the season to go to the state playoffs, but with a new philosophy and a new coach we didn’t know what to expect,” Flowery Branch coach Jeremy Purdy said. “I can’t say enough about our players and their strong leadership.”

The No. 10-ranked Grangers controlled the offensive side of the ball in the opening minutes of the game, but Flowery Branch’s Philip Abrahamsen’s shot on goal in the seventh minute marked the first true scoring opportunity of the game.

The Falcons controlled the ball for the next 20 minutes with four shots on LaGrange goalkeeper Donnie Palmer, including an empty-net opportunity by David Patino that rolled out of bounds before he could get the shot off.

In the 28th minute, Flowery Branch used a string of passes to move the ball up the length of field, eventually giving Ellis an open shot from inside LaGrange’s penalty area. But the senior’s shot was stopped by Palmer.

The closing minutes of the first half saw the Falcons’ defense break down several of the Grangers scoring attempts, led by defender Jonathan Osler’s shot blocking.

“Osler doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves,” Purdy said. “He positions the defense well and talks his teammates to get them going.

“He’s definitely our team leader in the back.”

The Falcons continued to dominate on defense in the second half, limiting the Grangers to three shots on goal.

Flowery Branch earned a scoring opportunity in the 66th minute when Patino earned a penalty kick after Palmer left the penalty box while still holding the ball. The shot, however, sailed over the net.

Three minutes later, an Ellis throw-in went into the net unassisted, but was not ruled a goal because no one had touched it after the initial throw-in.

Ellis redeemed himself two minutes later, finding a loose ball in front of the net and driving it past Palmer for the game’s only tally.

“It’s my senior year, so I have to play as hard as I can go,” Ellis said. “It’s a matter of going as hard as you can.”