If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best, and this Friday, undefeated Flowery Branch will get that chance.
The Falcons will travel to Roswell to take on defending state champion Blessed Trinity, and no one on the team has any illusions about how important this game truly is.
“It’s always fun to get a game that has a playoff mentality in October,” senior linebacker Connor Mayfield said. “We’ve just been emphasizing all week that we have an opportunity this week to do something to put ourselves in a good position for our region going into playoffs.”
The contest is among the most important regular season matchups for an undefeated Flowery Branch team still harboring championship aspirations.
With regular powerhouses Blessed Trinity and Marist continuing to chug along this year, and unbeaten Denmark on the rise, Region 7-4A has become clogged at the top, and games like this will be the difference between playing at home or away to start state playoffs.
Though the Falcons coaching staff has kept the team to its usual routine this week, the players are fully aware of Friday’s importance to the season as a whole.
“The kids have been focused,” Flowery Branch coach Ben Hall said. “They know what’s on the line.”
Last season’s, matchup between Falcons and Titans was a turning point for Flowery Branch.
Both teams came into the contest undefeated, and the game was tightly contested down to the last play. A failed two-point conversion in overtime lost the game for the Falcons, who went on to get shutout by Marist the following week to earn a No. 3 seed out of Region 7-4A, and eventually fell to Ridgeland on the road in the first round of Class 4A playoffs.
Still, Flowery Branch is not dwelling on last year’s loss.
“We really haven’t talked about it that much this year,” Mayfield said. “We just talked about what went well for us last year and how we need to continue that going into this season, how important it is for us to win this game.”
In order to do that, the Falcons will have to bring their best to a team that in many ways mirrors them. Both groups pride themselves on strong line of scrimmage play and athletic running back committees.
Stopping Blessed Trinity’s pairing of senior Elijah Green and freshman Justice Haynes will be the primary focus for Flowery Branch if it wants to have a chance to win the game, but the Titans strengths do not end at their backfield.
Hall called the team “solid across the board” and said he hasn’t been able to find a single glaring hole on the roster from top to bottom.
“They have talent in the backfield, and they’re fast at receiver,” he said. “They’re good at linebacker. They’re just solid. They’re well coached and they play physical.”
Both Hall and Mayfield added that special teams could be the deciding factor in the game — as it often is when two evenly matched squads face off. Staying ahead in the field position battle will be key, as both schools look to dominate time of possession and run the ball effectively.
It’s an important game — among the biggest on the season in all of Class 4A. But Hall said he’s not worried about his team being “awe struck” in the face of the high profile matchup. After gliding through the rest of the schedule to this point, Hall is not expecting his players to let up in the face of pressure.
“We just have to play our game, and I expect our kids to do that,” he said. “I’m excited for them. They’ve earned this opportunity to play in games that matter, and this is one that definitely matters.”