Sixth-ranked A.C. Flora stormed out to a 24-0 lead in the first 15 minuteson the way to a 37-14 win against No. 7 Daniel on Friday at Memorial Stadium in the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs.
The 10-1 Falcons play host to Lancaster in second-round action next week.
“We wanted to come out and attack in all phases,” Flora coach Reggie Shaw said. “We wanted to utilize our speed against a bigger team, and our guys bought into it.”
The Falcons did a little of everything in building the early lead that trapped Daniel in comeback mode.
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Flora opened the game with a nine-play, 70-yard scoring drive. Coleman Pope ran for 41 yards, Brendan Greene connected with Denzel Johnson on a 21-yard pass play and capped the march with a 1-yard run.
After the defense, which surrendered one offensive touchdown, forced a punt, the Falcons moved into field-goal range for Joseph Charlton, who was good from 35 yards out.
The defense then put up a three-and-out, and the offense responded with an 11-play, 50-yard scoring drive that ended with another 1-yard Greene plunge on the third play of the second quarter.
Charlton then shocked the Lions with an onside kick that he recovered at the Daniel 42.
Five plays later, Greene hit a wide-open Corey Riley down the middle with a 25-yard scoring pass.
The tally came at the 9:35 mark of the second quarter. At that point, Flora had 24 points and 166 yards, while Daniel managed a net of 20 yards on eight offensive plays.
“We came in with a chip on our shoulders,” Shaw said. “There were some chirpy comments on social media that gave us some extra fire. This was a good win, a signature win, but there is still a lot left for us to accomplish. In the playoffs, the next game is the most important.”
As usual, Flora shared the glory.
Pope finished with 113 yards rushing on 25 carries. Riley delivered with a 110 yards rushing on six carries, including a 50-yard scoring dash that closed the scoring, in addition to the TD catch. Greene had two touchdown runs and one scoring pass.
But it was the defense that stood out, limiting a potent offensive team to its lowest scoring output of the season.
“We knew (Daniel) had a great offense, but we watched a lot of film and came in prepared,” said cornerback Tyler Gray, who had two of the Falcons’ three interceptions against Lions freshman quarterback Ben Batson.
“We got great pressure on the quarterback up front and the secondary made some plays. We did what we were supposed to do.”
The Flora performance was all the more impressive considering the Falcons were without star senior safety Rion Davis, who has been out for four weeks with an ankle injury.
“Defense has been the foundation all year,” Shaw said. “Those guys came up big again tonight.”
Daniel (8-3) is not used to early playoff exits. This was the fourth first-round loss by the Lions in 29 postseason appearances since 1973.
ACF – Brendan Greene 1 run (Joseph Charlton kick), 8:33
ACF – Charlton FG 35, 4:55
ACF –Greene 1 run (Charlton kick), 11:21
ACF – Corey Riley 25 pass from Greene (Charlton kick), 9:35
D – Jordan Dunkley 66 fumble return (Rivers Sherrill kick), 4:45
ACF –Coleman Pope 4 run (kick failed), 6:45
D – Austin Barnes 63 pass from Ben Batson (Sherrill kick), 5:57
ACF –Riley 50 run (Charlton kick), 2:13
Rushing – D, Durham 10-42, Batson 6-86. ACF, Pope 25-113, Greene 11-29, Gist 4-14, Riley 6-110, Johnson 2-5.
Passing – D, Batson 17-32-3-201. ACF, Greene 6-12-0-113.
Receiving – D, Barnes 7-103, Gilliam 5-50. ACF, Johnson 3-33, Riley 1-25, Pope 1-4, Holliday 1-10.