BETHLEHEM -- Flowery Branch football coach Lee Shaw went into Friday's game curious to see how his team would react to a tough opponent on the road.
The answer: just fine thank you.
The Falcons pulled out of a scoreless first quarter with 21 second quarter points and responded again in the third to pull away with a 42-20 victory over Apalachee in Bethlehem.
"We identified tonight that we can play four quarters, and that we can finish a ballgame," Shaw said. "That's important because we're going to have finish some tough games on the road this season."
Flowery Branch quarterback Kanler Coker showed he knows how to finish, putting together a 303-yard, four-touchdown performance to pace the Falcons' spread attack.
"I think Kanler had his coming out performance tonight," Shaw said. "He became a true spread quarterback tonight, running the ball and getting out to several different receivers. I'm real pleased with his progress."
Coker compiled 88 yards rushing and three scores on the ground, including the final three touchdowns of the night. He also finished 16 of 23 through the air for 215 yards and score. Casey Osborne was his top target, catching six passes for 128 yards and the TD, while Jamaad Stephens hauled in seven passes for 64 yards.
Flowery Branch running back Jeremy Haley also did plenty of damage, rushing 14 times for 136 yards and two touchdowns. His scores helped put the Falcons (3-0, 3-0 Region 8-AAAA) up 21-7 at halftime.
The Wildcats (0-2, 0-2) weren't finished however, clawing back to 21-14 early in the third quarter on a 32-yard touchdown run from Stanley Williams. It was one of the few times the standout sophomore broke loose on the night against a Flowery Branch defense that tackled well for much of the game.
"Our secondary struggled a little bit, and they caught us in some play-action, but we did a great job controlling their backs for the most part," Shaw said. "All of their backs can break it any time, but we hemmed them up for the most part."
Even after Williams pulled away from three Falcons tacklers to score, the Flowery Branch offense fired right back -- Coker capping a six-play drive with a 1-yard TD run to pull ahead 28-14 with 4:02 left in the third quarter.
The quarterback added some cushion for the visitors just before the fourth quarter, scoring from 16 yards for a 35-14 advantage.
Apalachee quarterback Clint Ash broke an 80-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter to make it 35-20, but Coker helped the Falcons maintain control with a 10-yard scoring run with 2:30 remaining.
"It was good to see us battle and win a tough one on the road tonight," Shaw said.
Flowery Branch returns home next week to face Cedar Shoals.
Apalachee, meanwhile, will look to bounce back at Salem.