With its win Friday over defending 8-AAAA champions Apalachee at Falcon Field, Flowery Branch, as a new region member after eight seasons in 7-AAA, has placed itself in the discussion to be this year’s region champ.
And the Falcons (3-0) have made quite a case. Not only did they beat the region’s lower tier teams the first two weeks — Madison County and Winder-Barrow — they shut them out. Though the Falcons surrendered 35 points — all on run plays — to the Wildcats on Friday, they withstood the assault with 52 points of their own using a balanced attack.
Quarterback Austin Brown, in his third game as Falcons starter, threw for four touchdowns (no interceptions) and 316 yards — three of his scoring passes going to receiver Casey Osborne, who finished with 163 receiving yards.
In the run game, Jeremy Haley continues to prove his worth as feature back, carrying the ball 25 times for 198 rushing yards and two scores.
While Falcons coach Lee Shaw admits his team has “some work to do,” specifically referring to a defensive unit that allowed nearly 600 rushing yards to Apalachee, bottom line is they are one of two undefeated teams in the region, the other being Clarke Central at 2-0. The two teams face off at Flowery Branch in the last game of the regular season, a game that could very well determine the region champion.
But until then, there’s a lot of football left to be played, starting this week with the Falcons taking on Cedar Shoals (1-2) and Clarke Central playing Habersham Central (0-3).
How the Falcons fare against Cedar Shoals could serve as another barometer in how they stack up against the region’s best — Clarke Central handled the Jaguars 41-12 in the season opener.
Other teams making noise early in the new 8-AAAA are Heritage, Rockdale County, and Salem — all with 2-1 records. Loganvile and Apalachee are 1-1.
NORTH HALL HEALING: Coming off a 49-8 loss to St. Pius X on Friday, the Trojans (1-1) are still a little banged up heading into this week’s match against rival Gainesville (1-1). RB Imani Cross (Achilles surgery) and TE/DE D.J. Miolen (stress fracture, leg), are likely out against the Red Elephants, and Mack VanGorder (shoulder sprain) is probable.
Cross, who rushed for 1,407 yards and 17 touchdowns last season as a junior at Flowery Branch, has yet to play a game this season after surgery and is still awaiting clearance from team doctors. Trojans coach Bob Christmas said Cross has been practicing with the team in controlled situations, but making sure Cross is healthy is top priority.
“My gut feeling is he’s a week or two away,” Christmas said.
“He’s starting to hit and he looks good, but he’s not 100 percent ... He wants to be out there and it’s killing him not playing.”
Miolen, injured in Week 1 against Jefferson, didn’t practice last week and is wearing a boot and on crutches to ease the pressure on his leg. He’ll be re-evaluated later this week to determine the extent of his injury before a timetable for his return is set.
VanGorder’s situation is less serious and Christmas is optimistic he can play through the pain and heal completely within the next couple of weeks. He was held out of contact drills last week and team doctors will determine his practice availability for this week on Monday.
WHITE COUNTY SWITCHES UP O-LINE: After a Week 2 loss to Gainesville, the Warriors (2-1) moved four of their five offensive linemen — all remain in the starting lineup — with Zack Scarbrough staying at right guard.
Coach Gregg Seagraves was pleased with how the unit responded in Friday’s 45-18 win over West Hall in which the Warriors gained 285 rushing yards, including 121 by senior Ashely Lowery.
“We wanted to try something different,” Seagraves said. “We still have four weeks before subregion play starts and we wanted to see how this turned out. We’re starting to get done what we wanted to.”
Seagraves said it wasn’t just the offensive line that needed to get better.
“We just haven’t played good football the past two weeks,” he said.
“The defense needs to get better too. Basic fundamentals have been a problem and we’ll continue to stress that.”