FLOWERY BRANCH -- If things look awfully familiar for the Flowery Branch football team, it's because they were in the exact same position a year ago.
In 2012, the Falcons lost their first two games only to reel off a six-game winning streak heading into the final two weeks of the season with key games against Region 8-AAAAA heavyweights Clarke Central and Gainesville.
It has been a carbon copy for the Falcons in 2013. After two losses to open the season, the Falcons are preparing for Friday's showdown at Falcons Field against the Gladiators riding a six-game win streak and a chance to repeat as region champs. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and will be broadcast live on WDUN AM 550.
They would eventually finish the 2012 season with an eight-game winning streak and thrilling wins over Clarke Central and eventual state champion Gainesville to capture their first-ever region title.
As history is apt to do, Falcons coach Chris Griffin is hoping for a repeat.
"We sure hope it does," he said. "That would be great for us. But in reality, on the outside things look the same. For us, it has been a totally different season. But we sure do hope the last two games this year turn out like last year."
The similarities abound in the same record (6-2, 6-0 Region 8-AAAAA) at this point in the season and being tied atop the region standings with Gainesville. They also have pummeled their opponents by an average score of 40-12 during the win streak.
Where things become different is in the manner in how both teams reached this point. In 2012, the Falcons would have to rally from behind in six of their final eight games. This year, they have made a habit of jumping on teams quickly to eliminate some of the drama. However, they do not wish for a repeat of last year's shocking loss to East Paulding in the first round of the playoffs.
"The personalities of the teams are totally different," Griffin said. "This group seems to be a little more confident at this point than last year but the real difference is in the aspirations of these seniors. They feel like they can win it all.
"Obviously, anytime you can win a region title it's the fruit of your labor. But, our attitude since (losing to East Paulding) has been that we will not lose in the first round this year. No matter what. That is driving us perhaps a little more than winning the region."
Griffin credits a strong core of seniors -- Jackson McDonald, Cameron Davis, Andrew Miles, and Kellen Clark -- for demonstrating a never-quit attitude for the younger players.
"The seniors as a whole are a very confident group," Griffin said. "I think they were very disappointed in how last year ended and have made a goal of not letting that happen this year. They know what they can do and I believe they have the talent to win it all."
Despite coming off a 56-28 beat-down at the hands of Gainesville last week, Clarke Central (5-2, 4-1) poses the biggest challenge to the Falcons since losing to Class AAAAAA West Forsyth in the second game of the season. The Gladiators are averaging 30 ppg behind an I-formation attack similar to Georgia. Defensively, they had allowed just 95 points through their first six games (15.9 ppg) before being sliced up by Gainesville's spread attack.
Griffin feels the Falcons' style of offense lends itself to being able to find the end zone.
"If anything last week showed they can be scored on," he said. "They have an outstanding defensive team and are quick to the ball. But Gainesville was able to exploit some things and I think we can as well."
Defensively for the Falcons, they have allowed 17 ppg on the season but just 12 ppg in region games and just 8.5 ppg over their last four games. Stopping Gladiators' senior quarterback Cameron Johnson will be the key.
"He's a dual threat. Maybe not on the scale that (Gainesville's) Deshaun (Watson) is, but he manages the game very well," Griffin said. "They will run and throw and he can do both very well. He's a tough assignment for any defense.
"But, our guys have gotten better each game and we have confidence in them to be able to stop the other team. It will come down to whoever makes the fewest mistakes and creating turnovers on defense."
If deja vu does indeed rule the day on Friday, it could set up a rocking finish to the season at City Park Stadium next week.
"We're not looking ahead. We take things one game at a time," Griffin said. "But that would be another fun finish if we can get by Clarke Central. I would definitely like to see history repeat itself again."