Jefferson and Flowery Branch Primed for Top 10 Showdown

The Jefferson Dragons and Flowery Branch Falcons will face off this Friday night at 7:30pm and features as the GPB Game of the Week. Both of these two teams are represented in the Class 4A poll and enter the matchup performing at high levels. Three years ago when these two last played, Jefferson won a close game 35-29. A lot has changed in three years since their previous meeting and Jefferson Head Coach Gene Cathcart shared some his thoughts on how this game will be interesting and different from the previous matchup.

“You know there is a lot of familiarity with both teams,” said Cathcart. “Flowery Branch head coach Ben Hall was actually the head coach here at Jefferson before me, and there are some coaches on their staff that used to be a part of our team, so there definitely a lot of familiarity between our staff and theirs which will make for an interesting type of game.”

Jefferson enters this game with a 4-0 record and is currently ranked No. 2 in the Class 4A. The Dragons feature a triple-option rushing attack that averages over 336.3 rushing yards per game and is led by 5-star athlete Malaki Starks. The versatile junior has accounted for 513 yards rushing through the first four games and even though he has just seven pass completions, four have gone for touchdowns—including three in Jefferson’s recent 26-19 win over Hart County. The run game is the driving force of Jefferson’s offensive dominance and Coach Cathcart commented on how this will factor into Friday’s showdown.

“There is a contrast in styles for sure,” said Cathcart. “We run a triple-option running attack and they have a high-powered passing attack and one of the best in the state. Our quarterback Malaki Starks is going to be a top Division 1 prospect, but we count on him to make good decisions and even though we don’t throw it much, when we do we’ve been able to hit on big plays. So yeah, we want to make sure we are running the ball effectively.”

Playing on television is not likely to phase the Dragons as they have played their fair share of broadcasted prime time games over the years. Coach Cathcart also spoke on how their focus would not be any obstacle this week as they prepare to take on the Falcons.

“We have been fortunate to be a part of a big program where we have played in a lot of big games that have been on television,” said Cathcart. “Our team has been in Elite 8 games and Final Four games, so playing on television won’t really be an issue for us. What we mainly try to do is focus on us, that way we keep focused on the current task. We don’t want the moment to be too big for us, and we don’t want to be too big for the moment.”

The Falcons of Flowery Branch meanwhile enter the matchup with a 3-1 record and are ranked No. 6 in class 4A. The Falcons come into this game with one of the most prolific offenses in the state that averages over 340 passing yards per game and stays balanced with a running attack that is racking up more than 100 rushing yards per game. Head Coach Ben Hall spoke about why this offense has been so productive.

“It’s important for us to have that balance, as for any team,” said Hall. “Our starting quarterback David Renard played for us last year as a sophomore and this year he’s playing very well giving us that balance that we need. Our running backs Jaizen Ellingham and Myles Ivey have also contributed to that with their tough running style.”

Rennard has accounted for 1,290 passing yards and eight touchdowns with just two interceptions through the Falcons’ first four outings. Ellingham (232) and Ivey (205) have accounted for 437 of the team’s 536 rushing yards and have each Ellingham scored five of his team-high eight rushing touchdowns in Flowery Branch’s 45-40 win over Dawson County. Coach Hall shared his thoughts on what how his team will approach this challenging matchup.

“Well these are two totally different teams with different play styles,” said Hall. “Their quarterback Malaki Starks has run the ball very well as their running backs have too. We’re going to have to tackle well and play really good on defense.”

Coach Hall also mentioned how playing on television will not be an issue for his team either as they’ve already had some experience doing so this season.

“For our team I don’t think focus will be an issue,” said Hall. “We started our season in the Corky Kell Classic on television, so with our team, it’s been there done that. We have played a lot of teams on TV, but we’re going to have to focus on this team. I’ll tell you that, because so far their going to be the best team we’ve played against.”

This game Friday night on GPB looks to be fun and interesting to watch as both teams seem very familiar with each other. That familiarity, and the team’s experience playing on the big stage, will be a big factor in determining who wins or loses this game. With the state title being the ultimate goal these Class 4A contenders this season, the Falcons are trying to win their program’s first, while the Dragons will look to win their second in eight years. Coach Hall and members of his staff look forward to face their former team and we’ll have to wait see if that in any way gives them an an advantage this Friday night.


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