Tuesday October 6th, 2015 6:45PM

Flowery Branch hoping for redemption in Athens (Video)

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
Related Articles
FLOWERY BRANCH -- One down, two to go... and it only gets harder every week.

That's the situation Flowery Branch football finds itself in this week, as the Falcons travel to face Clarke Central.

One week after disposing of fellow Region 8-AAAAA title challengers Heritage in a 35-27 comeback win, Flowery Branch will travel to face a Gladiators program it has yet to defeat.

Find a way to do that, and the Falcons (6-2, 6-0 Region 8-AAAAA) will set themselves up for a de facto 8-AAAAA championship game with rival Gainesville on Nov. 9 in Flowery Branch.

Knocking off Clarke Central will be anything but easy, however, and even though the Gladiators hold a 3-4 overall record, 3-2 in 8-AAAAA, those region defeats came against No. 5 Gainesville and in overtime against Heritage -- when the Gladiators were missing five starters through suspension.

Earlier this week, Access North sports editor Morgan Lee caught up withe the Falcons to talk about Friday's big showdown in Athens. To watch the presentation, simply scroll down and click "play."

Preview-Flowery Branch vs Clarke Central from WDUN TV on Vimeo.

"They're faster and stronger than Heritage by far," said Falcons senior defensive back Quinton Mayfield of Clarke Central. "Our keys right now are to stop their running back and quarterback. If we can do that we can win."

Stopping the explosive Gladiators attack has not been easy in the past for Flowery Branch, which fell 21-0 to Clarke Central in 2010 and 38-35 in 2011. Both outcomes denied the Falcons outright region championships -- though Flowery Branch did share the 2011 8-AAAA crown with the Gladiators and Heritage.

This year's Gladiators team features plenty of firepower in running back Jalani Payne and quarterback Cameron Johnson. Yet Flowery Branch is relishing the opportunity -- especially with the memory of those two losses very much in the team's collective memory banks.

"I've played against Clarke Central since we started playing them in the region a couple of years ago," Mayfield said. "They took the region championship from us last year, and we want revenge on them."

To avenge those defeats, Flowery Branch knows it must avoid digging the early hole it put itself in against Heritage, as turnovers helped the visiting Patriots to a 21-point halftime advantage.

"I think (after last week) they realized they can't put themselves in a hole early on, because the games are getting tougher and harder each week," Falcons coach Chris Griffin said. "Hopefully they learned a lesson when they were able to overcome it."

Flowery Branch stormed back into the lead with 29 third quarter points -- over a span of about four minutes -- showing an explosiveness that has caught a number of teams this season.

"We're a ticking time bob, ready to go off," Falcons quarterback Jackson McDonald said. "Our offense has scored 50 points in some games, some just 21. It's all about momentum. If we get rolling, we feel like no one can stop us. In every game adversity will hit you, and you've got to roll through it. We did a good job of that last week."

If the Falcons can do so again this week, they will be looking at step three and possibly an even tougher task -- one that they'll doubtless relish. But right now Flowery Branch is just focused on getting to that step.

NOTES: Both offenses are multiple with an edge toward the run game. And both defenses like to attack, shift and blitz with an aim at confusing opposing quarterbacks. ... Clarke Central enters the contest averaging 30.7 points per game on offense and giving up 23.6. ... Flowery Branch is scoring 33.4 ppg and allowing 23.3.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday
-- WHERE: Billy Henderson Stadium, Athens
-- FLOWERY BRANCH (6-2, 6-0 Region 8-AAAAA): Defeated Heritage, Conyers, 35-27 last week.
-- CLARKE CENTRAL (3-4, 3-2 Region 8-AAAAA): Lost to Gainesville 49-28 last week.
-- HISTORY: Clarke Central won the last meeting, 38-35 in 2011. The Gladiators lead the series 2-0.
© Copyright 2015
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Tech beats Southern California in Sun Bowl
Tevin Washington threw a touchdown pass and ran for another score to help Georgia Tech beat Southern California 21-7 on Monday in the Sun Bowl.
5:54PM ( 2 years ago )
Top 10 sports stories of the year: 2012 one for the history books
2012 has been all things to all people in the sports world. The last 12 months have run the gamut of emotions and given fans and spectators much to awe, rue and everything in between.
2:33PM ( 2 years ago )
College Football Hall to break ground in Atlanta
Groundbreaking for the new College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta will be Jan. 28 and the museum is scheduled to open in the fall of 2014.
2:15PM ( 2 years ago )
Boys basketball: Dawson County storms to Battle of States crown, 13-0 mark
The Dawson boys basketball team extended their perfect start to the season to 13-0 -- their best opening in over 40 years -- on Saturday, claiming the Battle of the States tournament title in the process, 62-22 over Murphy, N.C., in Hiawassee.
11:17PM ( 2 years ago )
Girls basketball: Chestatee stumbles to losses in tournament play
The Chestatee girls basketball team dropped a 50-47 decision to Allatoona on Saturday at the Allatoona Christmas Tournament in Acworth.
8:19PM ( 2 years ago )
High School Sports
Falcons place Hester on short-term IR; out until Dec. 6
The Atlanta Falcons placed wide receiver and return specialist Devin Hester on injured reserve-designated to return with a turf toe injury on Tuesday.
6:33PM ( 12 minutes ago )
Region title deciders on the line? Could well be the case for Friday
We’re past the halfway point in the season, so it’s no wonder that this week brings with it a handful of contests that could well decide the destiny of a region crown and/or playoff positioning this weekend.
4:40PM ( 2 hours ago )
Softball: Region tournaments finally back in action after rainouts
The weather has been as big a story as the teams themselves as region tournaments to fill the girls state softball brackets have been postponed twice in the last week due to rain.
12:18PM ( 6 hours ago )
Quinn getting message of starting fast through to Falcons
Coach Dan Quinn has been trying to get the Atlanta Falcons to start games fast...
11:09AM ( 7 hours ago )
Hart says Braves 'will be better' following 67-win finish
The last time the Atlanta Braves finished below 70 wins was 1990, when they were in a rebuilding process based on pitching...
9:59AM ( 8 hours ago )