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Shaw's 6 touchdowns lead Falcons' air raid, 49-21
Flowery Branch avenges opening loss to Stephens, advances in AAA playoffs
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TOCCOA -- In the Flowery Branch football program, the offense is known as the "Air Raid" and the defense as the "Black Swarm."

Friday night against Stephens County, both sides of the ball lived up to their nicknames.

Falcons' quarterback Connor Shaw was 19-of-22 passing for 302 yards and five touchdowns to lead Class AAA No. 9-ranked Flowery Branch to a 42-21 win at The Reservation.

"It's unbelievable, what a quarterback dreams of (to have a performance like this)," Connor Shaw said.

"Coming on the road like this, down a seed, losing the region championship in a heartbreak loss and to come out and do this right here, it's unbelievable."

Shaw also had 42 yards rushing and one touchdown. Greg Palmer had seven receptions for 140 yards and two touchdowns as the Falcons (9-2) avenged their season-opening 28-25 loss at Toccoa.

The defense stepped up and did its part as well, holding the Indians (8-3) to 36 yards rushing in the first half while not allowing a single first down to help put the game out of reach by halftime.

The Black Swarm held on all but two third-down conversion attempts by the Indians and got the offense the ball back both times Stephens tried to go for it on fourth down. The defense also managed three sacks on the night and one more interception, the second-half turnover by Rodriquez Frazier.

"What a confidence boost," Flowery Branch coach Lee Shaw said. "To come to a place that I think has been winning about 80 percent of their home games and to win in this fashion ... it was just a great team testament. Our guys battled so hard, just an outstanding effort and I'm so proud of them."

With the victory, the first road playoff win in the program's history, the Falcons move on to the second round of the Class AAA state playoffs, where they will face Ridgeland (9-2) in Rossville.

Ridgeland, the No. 1 seed out of 6-AAA, beat Carver-Atlanta 33-0 on Friday night.

"This (win) means a lot," Palmer said. "Last year, we came in and got upset by a (No.) 3 seed (Chamblee). This senior class has proven a lot."

Flowery Branch got on the board early on a 10-play 80-yard drive capped by Shaw's first touchdown pass of the night. The Indians flushed the first-year starter out of the pocket and, on the run, Shaw found a wide-open Chris Lipscomb for a 45-yard score.

The defense took it from there in the first quarter, causing two Indians turnovers and a 3-and-out on Stephens County's first three possessions.

Falcons' junior linebacker Matt Bell recovered a Ren Teasley fumble for the first turnover and senior linebacker David DeLeon had a diving interception after senior linebacker Cory Sanderson tipped a Dacen Cash pass.

"They (Falcons' defense) were on," Lee Shaw said. "That was the difference in the first game. We scored points but our defense didn't play real well especially in the linebacker position.

"But those guys stepped up tonight and our entire defense came out clicking. Our offense might have lit up the scoreboard, but the defense set the tone early."

Flowery Branch scored on three of its next four possessions in the half, all on Shaw's passing. He and Palmer hooked up for a 44-yard touchdown, and 1:45 later after the defense stopped Stephens on fourth-and-1, a diving Darius Kimbrough caught a Shaw pass in the back of the end zone for a 28-yard score.

"I never imagine that would happen," Connor Shaw said. "I think our team had their mind right coming into this game, we were really focused.

"We talked all week about how we wanted to get revenge. That happened tonight."

Shaw hit Frazier for the Falcons' final touchdown of the half on a 25-yard pass play. The junior had 233 passing yards and four touchdowns by halftime.

"He said during the week that he couldn't wait to play this one," Lee Shaw said. "I think that first game (against Stephens County) he took personal and this was the kind of performance we needed him to have."

Stephens managed to get on the board before the end of the half on a 61-yard touchdown pass from Cash to Bryan Whitfield.

Flowery Branch scored on its first two possessions of the second half. The first came after senior defensive end Daniel Drummond sacked Cash for a 12-yard loss on fourth-and-4. Two plays into the Falcons ensuing drive, Shaw found Palmer again for a 59-yard score.

""We keyed on our receivers this week," Connor Shaw said. "We ran a lot of routes and our receivers played so well, they just made plays."

"It feels great knowing I put up 12 points for my team," Palmer said.

Shaw found the end zone one more time, this time on a 4-yard run. Imani Cross was the leading rusher for the Falcons with 81 yards on nine carries. Drummond had 71 yards on five carries.

Stephens County, which scored twice in the second half on 7-yard run by Dre Cunningham and a 3-yard run by Teasley, was led by Teasley's 119 yards rushing.

Cash was 9-of-20 passing for 190 yards and a touchdown.

"Our first game of the year, we made a lot of mistakes," Palmer said. "Our goal this game was to limit mistakes and that's what we did."

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