ATHENS, Ga. — If there's one thing Flowery Branch head coach Jason Tester knows about his team is they fight.
The Falcons (3-3, 1-1 Region 8-5A) proved it Friday with a come-from-behind last-minute 41-38 win over Clarke Central (3-3, 0-2 Region 8-5A) to keep their playoff hopes alive.
It was a huge momentum booster for the Falcons, who lost to Eastside last week in double overtime.
Tester said he's proud of how his team fought back and showed resiliency after last week's heart-breaking loss.
"You know, we talked about that all week. They were encouraging each other, even though we just lost in overtime. They took ownership of it. I just reminded them to continue to focus on details. Tonight we played a good football team. Our kids just don't give up. They keep fighting, and they did tonight."
Branch quarterback Josh Oliver, who passed for 400 yards, four touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns, scampered in from 10 yards out with 1:20 left to push the Falcons ahead 39-38. Oliver then hit Ethan Fetterman for the two-point conversion to go up, 41-38.
It was all part of a back-and-forth intense battle all night.
"Josh is our leader," Tester said. "He made a couple of mistakes tonight and threw a couple of picks but didn't hang his head. When we needed him, he did exactly what we expected him to do."
Oliver connected with Jeremiah Ware and Seth Larson two times each in the game.
Branch's defense hunkered down on Clarke Central's final drive, striping the ball on third down to force a fourth and long situation for the Gladiators.
"We knew we just needed to keep punching and punching," Tester said. "We were going to take some other shots. We just needed to keep answering. We didn't escape with a win; we just took a win."
The Falcons' path to the playoffs doesn't get any easier. They'll host Winder-Barrow next week in another crucial Region 8-5A battle.
"Every game matters, and every play matters," Tester said. "We've got to prepare for a good football team. They're big and physical. Our preparation has to continue with great focus and energy."