WINDER -- Apalachee's defense came to play Friday, holding the aerial attack of Flowery Branch in check for the first half and helping the team build a 14-3 lead.
But the Falcons came out of the locker room and ran the ball all over the Wildcats, unleashing Justin Curry for 190 yards and two third-quarter TDs on 19 carries, leading Flowery Branch to a 30-20 comeback win.
"It was a pretty surreal moment," Curry said. "We were down in the first half, couldn't get much going. But the line stepped up, we finally got our play-calling in order and we just did what we do best."
Apalachee (1-4, 0-3 Region 8-AAAAA) drew first blood on its second possession of the game. Zay Henry took the second play of the drive 51 yards on the ground to the Flowery Branch 12. Three plays later, quarterback Clint Ashe snuck in from a yard out for a score to cap off the five-play, 66-yard drive. Christian Vasquez's kick made the score 7-0 .
Quinton Mayfield received the kickoff for the Falcons (4-2, 4-0 Region 8-AAAAA) and nearly tied the game with an 80-yard return to the Wildcat 10. A touchdown run on the second play from scrimmage was called back on a hold, and Will Filson was forced to attempt a 39-yard field goal. His kick was short, and the score stayed at 7-0.
After holding Apalachee, Filson put the Falcons on the board with a 32-yard field goal with 10:15 to go before halftime.
The Wildcats continued to grind the ball on the ground with Eric Tanner and Henry and doubled their score with 5:40 left in the half. Big runs of 25 and 12 yards by Tanner, plus a 15-yard facemask penalty, got Apalachee into scoring position. Tanner then scooted into the end zone, and Vasquez's kick made the score 14-3.
Flowery Branch came out of the locker room and immediately took charge of the game.
After holding Apalachee on its first drive, the Falcon offense took over and gave Curry control of the game. He took his first run of the half -- and only his second of the game -- for 24 yards to the Wildcat 31. After Curry ran for six yards, he took the ball into the end zone from 25 yards out, and Filson's kick brought the score to 14-10.
The Falcons put up another quick score after stopping Apalachee on a three and out. Starting at the Wildcat 42, Curry hit runs of nine, 20 and 12 yards before taking it in for a TD from one yard at the 5:51 mark, putting the Falcons on top for the first time at 17-14.
"He's a good football player," Apalachee coach Shane Davis said of Curry. "We talked as coaches at halftime. We knew he was going to get some yards, and we knew they were going to score some points. I thought we did a good job to hold them to three points in the first half. But down the stretch, we just ended up missing too many tackles."
Curry would've had a third touchdown in the third quarter, but he fumbled the ball at the 2-yard line late in the period. The Wildcats pounced on it and stayed in the game going into the final 12 minutes down just three.
But Apalachee was unable to move the ball into Falcon territory and forced to punt. The Falcons started their next drive at midfield, and quarterback Jackson McDonald scrambled for a TD from 11 yards out with 7:01 remaining. The kick was no good, making the score 23-14 Falcons.
Jody Mathis broke through the line for a big 45-yard run on the next drive and was stopped by the last defender at the Falcon 20-yard line. But on third and nine, Darius Curry picked off Ashe's pass at the goal line.
Cameron Davis put in a final score for Flowery Branch, after which a Falcon player was ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct, with 3:10 remaining. Ashe drove his team down the field and put in a touchdown, but the two-point conversion failed, putting the score at 30-20.
After recovering the onside kick attempt, Flowery Branch took a knee to run out the clock and claim the win.
Tanner put up a big night for Apalachee, rushing for 144 yards and a TD on 23 carries.