Flowery Branch kept things close for nearly the entire first half in Friday night’s game against Marist at Falcons Field, but the visiting War Eagles eventually proved to much to overcome. Marist scored a pair of touchdowns off fumbles late in the second quarter and shut down the Flowery Branch offense throughout the contest to cruise to a 27-0 victory.
“They get you behind, and then they want to chew the clock,” Flowery Branch coach Ben Hall said after the game. “We like to do that ourselves, but unfortunately we weren’t able to do that tonight. They were the better team.”
The War Eagles scored on their first possession of the game when quarterback Connor Cegelske capped off a five-minute touchdown drive with a 1-yard plunge to put the visiting team up 7-0. Marist’s next two drives ended in Cegelske interceptions collected by Connor Mayfield and Taylor Reeves, but the Falcons couldn’t turn either turnover into any points.
Cegelske scored his second touchdown of the day with under a minute to go in the half on a 14-yard scamper, then threw a 9-yard score to Derek McDonald following a Flowery Branch fumble to take a 21-0 lead into halftime.
Clinging to a three-score advantage, Marist simply played keepaway whenever it possessed the ball in the second half, putting together a pair of six-minute drives that did not net any points but did keep the Falcons off the field to prevent a comeback.
Cegelske broke off a 52-yard touchdown run with three minutes to go in the game that proved the backbreaker, as Flowery Branch dropped its second consecutive region game.
FAILURE TO CAPITALIZE ON TURNOVERS
As Marist clung to a 7-0 lead and the ball early in the second quarter, Flowery Branch made exactly the defensive play it needed. Cegelske didn’t see Connor Mayfield lurking over the middle of the field, and threw the Flowery Branch linebacker an easy interception that looked like it would turn the tide in the Falcons favor. Five plays later, the home team was punting.
Reeves intercepted Cegelske again on a deep ball in the corner of the end zone just a few minutes later, but once again, Flowery Branch could not produce points off the turnover.
Conversely, the War Eagles scored a pair of touchdowns off Falcons fumbles late in the second quarter, putting Flowery Branch into a huge hole at halftime.
“When you play a team like Marist, your possessions are so limited,” Hall said. “If you can earn a possession by getting a turnover, it’s a must that you turn that into points. We weren’t able to do that, and they marched our turnovers down and scored. That created momentum for them, and we couldn’t create our own momentum.”
RED ZONE STRUGGLES
Flowery Branch started the second half with a stop on defense, and immediately looked to be renewed offensively as well. The Falcons gained 32 yards on their first two plays of the third quarter, and picked up another big chunk with a 17-yard run from Chandler White later in the drive that got the ball inside the 15-yard line.
But a holding penalty brought back a touchdown on the next play, and even after the Falcons picked up a first down on the 5-yard line, they could not punch the ball in on four tries. The drive ate up more than eight minutes of the clock, but did not put any points on the board for Flowery Branch.
“The holding penalty on the touchdown backed us up,” Hall said. “We couldn’t overcome it.”