FLOWERY BRANCH -- It may not be the high-flying offense run to perfection by the Shaw brothers of years past, but Flowery Branch's back-to-basics style proved to be just as effective against Cedar Shoals Friday night.
The Falcons, employing a run-first offensive strategy, pounded out 368 yards rushing behind Jemon Randolph en route to a wild 39-25 win over the Jaguars in both teams' Region 8-AAAAA opener at Falcons Field.
Randolph finished with 201 yards, 148 coming in the first half, and two touchdowns after filling in for Jeremiah Goss, who went down with an injury on the third play of the game.
Fans of the Falcons (1-2, 1-0 Region 8-AAAAA) have become accustomed to seeing them throw the ball early and often. Flowery Branch coach Chris Griffin said they just take what the opposing defense gives.
"We like to try and establish the run and I thought we did a great job in the first half," Griffin said. "Jemon was outstanding. He really picked us up when we needed it. We saw some things in the first half that we could do and executed them."
Quarterback Jackson McDonald threw for 163 yards and two touchdowns on 11-of-16 passing but the Falcons did the bulk of their damage on the ground. Randolph set up his first TD run of the game with a 59-yard burst down the sideline to the Jaguars 3. His 3-yard run on the next play capped a 90-yard drive to open the game.
"I thought that set the tone for us early," Griffin said.
After holding Cedar Shoals to three plays and out on its first possession, the Falcons made it 12-0 when Randolph scored on a 1-yard run capping an 11-play, 67-yard drive.
The Falcons defense would hold Cedar Shoals to just one first down on its next possession and Cameron Davis would score on a nifty 20-yard run out of a wildcat type formation to give Flowery Branch an 18-0 lead early in the second quarter.
McDonald would cap the first half scoring on a 10-yard run for a 25-0 halftime lead.
The defense was downright stingy in the first half yielding just 49 total yards and three first downs while taking a 25-0 lead into halftime.
"They played outstanding in the first half," Griffin said. "But we had some breakdowns in the second half. Fortunately we were able to hang on."
As well as things went in the first half for the Falcons, they ran into problems in the second half. Namely, Adrain Washington and Deshawn Arnold.
Cedar Shoals (0-3, 0-1 Region 8-AAAAA) finally found its offense to open the third quarter. Darius Jordan connected with Washington on a 55-yard screen pass moving the Jaguars to the Falcons 8. Washington finished off the 80-yard drive with a 4-yard TD run to cut the lead to 25-7.
The Jaguars would strike again early in the fourth quarter when Washington cut the lead to 25-13 on a 3-yard run. His run would set the stage for a wild finish that saw four touchdowns in a three minute span.
The Falcons responded through the air on their next drive with McDonald connecting with Justin Thomson on a 13-yard touchdown pass with 5:38 left in the game to push the lead to 32-13.
Cedar Shoals answered that with a quick drive, capped by a 55-yard touchdown run from Arnold just 23 seconds later to trim the lead to 32-19 after a failed two-point conversion.
The Falcons came right back again with McDonald hitting Davis on a 20-yard touchdown pass for a 39-19 lead. Two plays later the Jaguars would strike again when Arnold found Tyler Hitchcock down the middle for a 68-yard TD pass to make it 39-25 with 2:25 left.
The Falcons would recover the ensuing onside kick and run out the clock.
After two tough losses, Griffin said any win is a good one at this point.
"It's always good to get a win and to open the region with a win is big," he said. "Now we just need to work on the things we need too so we can continue to get better."
Davis would finish with 74 yards rushing and McDonald added 61 yards rushing for the Falcons.
Washington finished with 70 yards and two touchdowns for the Jaguars. Cedar Shoals would pile up 308 yards of offense in the second half.
Cedar Shoals....0....0....7....18 -- 25
Fl. Branch.....12.....13....0....14 -- 39
FB -- J. Randolph 3 run (kick failed) 6-0, 7:46
FB -- J. Randolph 1 run (kick failed) 12-0, 2:35
FB -- C. Davis 20 run (run failed) 18-0, 10:13
FB -- McDonald 10 run (Tovar kick) 25-0, 4:53
CS -- Washington 4 run (Kirch kick) 25-7, 8:49
CS -- Washington 3 run (kick failed) 25-13, 8:50
FB -- J. Thomson 13 pass from McDonald (Tovar kick) 32-13, 5:38
CS -- Arnold 55 run (run failed) 32-19, 5:15
FB -- C. Davis 20 pass from McDonald (Tovar kick) 39-19, 3:02
CS -- Hitchcock 68 pass from Arnold (run failed) 39-25, 2:25