A.C. Flora cleaned up its act in the second half Friday at Memorial Stadium, pulling away for a 59-21 win against Emerald to advance to the final four of the Class 3A state playoffs for the second time in past four seasons.
The 12-1 Falcons host South Pointe (10-3) next week in the Upper State title game with a chance to earn their first state championship shot.
The game was a 21-21 draw in the first half, even though the Falcons had a 254-85 offensive yardage advantage.
Flora had special teams breakdowns and turnover issues in the opening 24 minutes. Emerald’s touchdowns came on an 86-yard kickoff return by Justin Watson, a 40-yard fumble return by De’Taurio Drennon and a short scoring drive set up by a Falcons fumble on another kickoff.
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“It seemed like we did everything we could to give the game away (in the first half),” Falcons coach Reggie Shaw said.
“Our biggest concern coming in was turning the ball over, doing things to beat ourselves. We let them hang around too much.”
That all changed after the break.
The Falcons did not score on their first possession of the second half, but produced points on their next five tries.
How dominant was Flora in the second half? The Falcon attack scored 38 unanswered points and amassed 318 offensive yards (for a game total of 572), while the defense limited the Vikings to a net of minus-2 yards (83 for the game).
“I’m so proud of how the guys responded,” Shaw said. “We challenged the offense to step it up, and the guys answered the call. We’re blessed to be where we are. The goal all season was to be practicing on Thanksgiving.”
The Falcons had many standouts.
Quarterback Brendan Greene was 10-for-20 passing for 214 yards and two touchdowns and had one scoring run.
Donald Gist (143 yards, TD), Clarence Watson (93, two TDs) and Denzel Johnson (83, TD) powered a running game that produced 358 yards on 37 carries.
Johnson added four catches for 83 yards and another score at receiver, not to mention picking off a pass on defense.
“That wasn’t A.C. Flora football in the first half,” Johnson said. “We showed what we were made of when things weren’t going well.”
The defense came up with four takeaways and surrendered 4 rushing yards. Lineman Darryl Davis had several highlight plays.
The idea now is to take the next step to the championship game.
“We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished so far, but we can only be focused on the next game,” Shaw said. “Maybe we learned something tonight.”
ACF – Clarence Watson 60 run (Thomas McCutchen kick), 6:23
E – Justin Watson 86 kickoff return (Will Tommie kick), 6:11
E – Gage Cervenka 1 run (Tommie kick), 5:11
ACF – Denzel Johnson 35 run (kick failed), 3:47
ACF – Brendan Greene 2 run (Lowndes Pope pass from Greene), 11:56
E – De’Taurio Drennon 40 fumble return (Tommie kick), 5:03
ACF –Michael Aimone 50 pass from Greene (McCutchen kick), 6:18
ACF – Joseph Charlton FG 45, 3:56
ACF – Johnson 22 pass from Greene (McCutchen kick), 0:51
ACF –Watson 5 run (McCutchen kick), 7:11
ACF – Donald Gist 51 run (McCutchen kick), 3:13
ACF – Cam Riley 5 (McCutchen kick), 1:12
Rushing – E, Parker 9-28, Brown 6-(-17), Cervenka 2-3, Reynolds 1-0, Sloan 1-(-6). ACF, Watson 12-93, Greene 4-23, Gist 8-143, Corey Riley 3-(-3), Johnson 5-85, Cam Riley 2-17.
Passing – E, Brown 9-25-2-79. ACF, Greene 10-20-0-214.
Receiving – E, Watson 2-31, Sloan 2-18, Parker 3-13, Mosley 2-17. ACF, Johnson 4-83, Croffie 2-34, Aimone 3-97.