FLOWERY BRANCH — Flowery Branch came into the night looking to do something they have never done — beat arch-rival Gainesville three meetings in a row.
And they did ... in dramatic fashion.
Gainesville (1-1) took the lead for the first time in the game with 2:20 left in the fourth quarter, scoring on a 16-yard pass from Gionni Williams to Samaj Brown, and the two connected again just seconds later for a successful two-point conversion to take the lead, 22-21.
With their backs against the wall, the Falcons (2-1) executed their two-minute offense to perfection thanks to junior quarterback David Renard. Renard led the Falcons on a seven-play, 74-yard drive, connecting on 4 of 7 passes for 69 yards and the eventual game-winning touchdown. Renard dropped in a 27-yard pass to his tight end Sal Sengson, who caught the ball, spun away from two Red Elephants and hit paydirt to win the game.
“Gainesville is the most talented team that we have seen in a while,” Flowery Branch coach Ben Hall said. “Our kids went in swinging tonight, and I’m proud of the way they finished.”
Having led since the 5:49 mark in the first quarter, Flowery Branch was in control most of the game. When Gainesville took the lead late, the Falcons stayed calm and did what they did well all game—throw the ball past the chains.
“We had to overcome,” Hall said. “We did a great job. Our players kept their composure and didn’t panic and we called timeouts in timely situations. David Renard did an awesome job of leading us down the field David’s a field general. He’s an outstanding kid. I can’t say enough about him.”
Renard finished the game 19-for-29 for 368 yards and three touchdowns. 16 of Renard’s 19 completions were 10-plus yards. The receiving trio of Connor Larson, Sal Sengson and Baxley O’Brien each had over 100 yards receiving and a touchdown apiece.
Gainesville played from behind all night and even trailed by two touchdowns midway through the third quarter. Gionni Williams led the Red Elephants out of the shotgun, finishing 19-for-31 for 213 yards and a touchdown, and ran for 91 yards on 14 carries and a score.
Williams relied heavily on JQ Drinkard all night long. Drinkard, just a sophomore, finished with 126 yards on seven catches.
In Big Red’s backfield, Naim Cheeks, another sophomore, was the game’s lone 100-yard rusher. He finished with 103 yards on 19 carries and a score.
With the Falcons’ starting running back Jaizen Ellingham out, Myles Ivy answered the call, churning out 76 yards on 22 carries and a touchdown.
“Myles [Ivy] ran hard and got some tough yards for us,” Hall said. "Jaizen [Ellingham] is going to be fine. He got a slight ding in his shoulder and he should be good to go after about a week.”
The Branch (2-1) will have a bye next week to get healthy, while Gainesville (1-1) will host Discovery in a non-region matchup.
FB: 27-yard pass from Renard to O’Brien (Trujillo kick) 0-7, 5:49
G: 20-yard run by Williams (Martinez kick) 7-7, 2:32
FB: 21-yard pass from Renard to Larson (Trujillo kick) 7-14, 0:41
FB: 5-yard run by Ivy (Trujillo kick) 7-21, 5:50
G: 3-yard run by Cheeks (Martinez kick) 14-21, 3:04
G: 16-yard pass from Williams to Brown (2PT conversion good, Williams pass to Brown) 22-21, 2:20
FB: 27-yard pass from Renard to Sengson (2PT conversion good, Renard pass to Sengson) 22-29, 0:59