FLOWERY BRANCH -- A few Flowery Branch football players struck up a dance on the sidelines with two minutes remaining in the first half of Friday's region contest with Rockdale County.
That's the kind of season the Falcons are enjoying right now.
Flowery Branch certainly had cause to celebrate, as the Falcons scored 28 points in the second quarter, turning a close contest into a rout before eventually finishing with a 49-0 win over Rockdale County in Flowery Branch.
The victory moved the Falcons to 5-0 and kept them in first place in Region 8-AAAA -- in their first season in the league.
"This is huge," Flowery Branch coach Lee Shaw said. "We're exactly where we want to be. Tonight was a huge win for us over a very good defense."
Flowery Branch pulled away over a five-minute span in the second quarter thanks to big plays in each phase of the game -- forcing two turnovers from the Bulldogs (2-3, 2-3 Region 8-AAAA) inside Rockdale territory and blocking a punt that the Falcons recovered at the Bulldogs eight-yard line. Flowery Branch scored off of each takeaway, as quarterback Austin Brown lit up the Bulldogs defense.
Brown put up 207 yards passing and four touchdowns in the first half, finishing the game 21 of 24 for 248 yards. His 30-yard pass over the middle to Brody Thomas put the Falcons ahead 7-0 with 4:29 left in the first quarter -- it was just the start of his most efficient night so far in a Flowery Branch uniform. The senior hooked up with junior receiver Logan Conley nine times for 91 yards and two scores. Flowery Branch finished with 400 total yards.
"Austin did a good job," Shaw said. "Our receivers played well; it was just a total team effort."
Meanwhile, the Falcons defense forced six turnovers (five fumbles) and held Rockdale to just 60 total yards in the first half with the game still in the balance. It was Flowery Branch's third shutout performance of the season.
"We just came out and hit them in the mouth," Falcons linebacker Jacob Allen said. "Our defensive line got in the backfield and got pressure on the quarterback, and that made a huge difference. If we keep improving, we've got the potential to go all the way."
Running back Jeremy Haley (82 yards on 12 carries) nudged the Falcons ahead 14-0 on a six-yard run up the middle with 5:32 left in the second quarter. From that point on it was all Flowery Branch, as the Falcons defense and special teams buried the visitors in an avalanche of momentum.
Flowery Branch linebacker Sydney Cheeks pounced on a Rockdale fumble at the Bulldogs 19, and, on the very next play, Brown lofted a 19-yard scoring pass to Logan Conley in the back of the end zone for a 21-0 advantage.
The Bulldogs picked up a first down courtesy a personal foul on the Falcons on their ensuing possession but still had to punt from their own 31 -- a punt that Flowery Branch's Scott Tupper blocked, allowing teammate Jonathan Frick to recover at the Rockdale eight-yard line. This time Brown hit Conley for a 6-yard touchdown pass and a 28-0 advantage with 3:02 left in the half.
The Falcons defense stamped its authority on the game just seconds later, as Jeremiah Words picked off Rockdale quarterback Darion Clark -- under pressure from three Flowery Branch defenders -- at the Bulldogs nine. On the next play, Brown hit Casey Osborne on a nine-yard scoring strike for a 35-0 lead.
"Our team really has the ability to do that; you blink and all of a sudden you're up three touchdowns," Shaw said. "And any time you can get a shut out in this region is huge."
Flowery Branch appeared set to take control of the game in the first half but managed just one score despite twice moving inside the Bulldogs 10-yard line. Rockdale's defense held the Falcons out of the end zone on fourth and goal at the two in the game's opening possession. Flowery Branch then recovered a Bulldogs fumble late in the first quarter and moved to the Rockdale nine -- but again the Falcons stalled and couldn't convert on a fake field goal attempt with 14 seconds left in the period.
The inconsistent start wouldn't matter, however, as the Falcons blitzed into halftime and held firm in the second half.
The Falcons have a bye next week before taking on Habersham Central on Oct. 8 in Mt. Airy.
Rockdale.........0.........0.........0.........0 -- 0
Fl. Branch.......7........28.........7.........7 -- 49
FB -- Thomas 30 pass from Brown (Monday kick), 4:29, 7-0
FB -- Haley 6 run (Monday kick), 5:32, 14-0
FB -- Conley 19 pass from Brown (Monday kick), 4:42, 21-0
FB -- Conley 6 pass from Brown (Monday kick), 3:02, 28-0
FB -- Osborne 9 pass from Brown (Monday kick), 1:48, 35-0
FB -- Thomas 5 run (Monday kick), :08, 42-0
FB -- Jimmy McIntyre 4 run (Manzo kick), 1:34, 49-0