Monday May 29th, 2023 9:28PM

Football: Flowery Branch facing an athletic, scrambling Mays team in 1st round

By Bo Wilson Sports Editor
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Numbers can often be deceiving in sports. 

After all, sportswriters around the country live and die by them. It's just the way it goes. So, when fans see Mays' 3-6 record, they might believe the Raiders are just a lucky team that made the playoffs. 

Flowery Branch head coach Ben Hall says not so fast. 

"Mays is really good despite their record," Hall said. "They have five or six Power 5 guys, but when you take a look at their schedule, it's tough."

Despite the 3-6 record, they still finished second in a brutal region, and the Raiders' six losses were against non-region and region opponents with a combined record of 44-13, including Region 4-6A champions Hughes, Region 5-4A champs, Riverdale, Region 4-6A No. 2 seed Westlake and region foe and top-ranked Marist. 

The Falcons (7-3, 4-2 Region 8-4A No. 3 seed) will travel to Lakewood Stadium on Friday to battle Mays (3-6, 3-2 Region 6-4A No. 2 seed). Kickoff is slated for 8 p.m. and can be heard live on AM 550 WDUN.

"We're going to have to play really well," Hall said. "We can't give these guys a short field with turnovers. It would be nice to create some turnovers and steal a couple from them." 

But the Falcons can toss their 2021 slate into the strength of schedule talk. Flowery Branch opened the season with a win over No. 8 St. Pius, battled Class 7A Gainesville to a close loss, and fell to No. 1 Jefferson, at the time, and No. 7 North Oconee, both on the road. 

So, the Falcons also are battled tested, and Hall says the schedule has helped them prepare for the postseason. 

"I felt like we lost to better teams on the three losses," he said. "We didn't play badly in those games, we just got beat by the better team on those nights, and our kids understood that. It's not like the air left the balloon when we dropped two region games, they just knew who we were playing and knew what we had to do to finish the season strong."

The Falcons did just that, winning the final four games big, averaging almost 40 points per game. 

Overall this season, the Falcons have averaged 31.5 ppg, good enough for 11th in Class 4A. They've also allowed just 16.6 ppg defensively. 

"I feel like we're playing good football," Hall said. "I feel like we've played good football all season long. It's just a lot of the teams that we've played are very, very tough. Our kids have stayed the course, been very resilient, focused and are playing with confidence."  

Over the last four games, the Falcons have used a combination of heavy run and heavy pass. Senior quarterback David Renard passed for 218 yards last week against East Hall, 93 against Chestatee and 177 yards against Madison County. Myles Ivey rushed for 94 yards against Madison, Renard had 58 and Malik Dryden ran for 25. Against East Hall, Ivey rushed for 52 yards and Zion Buffington had 62, and against Chestatee, Ivey reeled off 174 yards, while Renard added 101 yards on the ground. 

Hall said they will need to continue the balanced attack on Friday. 

"When you look at the teams they've played, they haven't necessarily played a team that plays our style of offense," he said. "We're going to have to be ready to do both and execute in both the running and passing game because they are so talented. It's not a team that we're going to be able to take deep shots on. We're going to have to be methodical, use play-action, hit underneath, execute the short intermediate passing game and establish the line of scrimmage. If we don't win up front, and that's going to be a big challenge, we're not going to win the game."   

As for Mays, they are athletic, which will make for an interesting offensive game plan. Led by Saulamon Evans (6-foot-4, 190 pounds) at quarterback, they'll look to scramble and toss it downfield. Travis Terrell, Triston Morgan and Jaqorian Wiggles are the go-to guys in the receiving game. They also can run the ball with Morgan behind a big offensive line. But their bread and butter is the scramble drill. 

"Just scary athletic," Hall said. "They take a lot of deep shots and have receivers that can go get it. They have a back that's running the ball well. Some of their best plays have been the scramble drill. Where the kid gets out of the pocket runs around and flips it up to the receiver. We're going to have to stay true in our coverage and contain on the line of scrimmage because they can score on any given play."  

The Falcons have no problem putting up points this season but will be tested, big-time, from a bigger defensive line and a speedy defensive backfield. Quintavious Johnson (6-foot-5, 250 pounds) and Evans will bookend an aggressive defensive line.  

"They have two big defensive ends and big in the middle," Hall said. "They run really well in the secondary. We're going to have to have long drives -- just possess the football and drive the field and avoid the penalties." 

-- WHEN: 8 p.m. 
-- WHERE: Lakewood Stadium, Atlanta
-- RADIO:  WDUN AM 550
-- FLOWERY BRANCH (7-3, No. 3 seed, Region 8): Defeated East Hall 61-20 last week
-- MAYS (3-6, No. 2 seed, Region 6): Lost 56-21 to No. 1 Marist last week
-- NOTABLE: First-ever meeting ... The Falcons have been quietly building for the playoffs. Branch has won 4 straight and is now 11th in offense (315, 31.5 ppg). But the Falcons have averaged 39.2 ppg in their last four games. Mays is 43rd out of 54 4A teams in defense (310, 31.0 ppg). ... The Mays offense has struggled all season averaging just 14.2 ppg. Branch has allowed just 15.5 ppg during its 4-game win streak. ... Region 8-4A went 3-1 in the first round in 2020.

  • Associated Categories: Sports, High School Sports, Friday Game Night
  • Associated Tags: High school football, Flowery Branch football
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