After a slow start, A.C. Flora has hit its stride.
The Falcons have won four in a row since their 1-4 start, and will play Chapin on Friday night for the Region 5-4A at Spirit Communications Park.
The winner of the game not only wins the region, but gets home-field advantage throughout the Class 4A playoffs.
A.C. Flora handed Chapin its only loss of the regular season last year, winning 28-27.
“Emotion and momentum are huge with high school athletes. We are in the position we want to be in, playing for a region championship,” A.C. Flora coach Reggie Shaw said. “We know we will have a battle on our hands with the Chapin team.”
Shaw said there wasn’t any panic despite the 1-4 record, against what he called one of the tougher nonconference schedules they’ve played since he’s been there. Two of those losses – to Lexington and Richland Northeast – were by a combined seven points, so the Falcons knew they weren’t far from turning things around.
Shaw said he and the coaching staff made a few changes and simplified things schematically. Flora also made a few personnel changes, one of those bringing Garrett Whetstone from defense to play receiver. The addition of Whetstone gives the Falcons a deep threat along with Thomas Hollingsworth.
Whetstone leads the team in receiving and has three games of 100 yards or more in the Falcons’ past four games.
The passing game has been aided buy a strong running game, led by tailback Coleman Pope, and the offensive line is a lot healthier than it was earlier in the season.
“We started to gel,” Shaw said. “Anytime you are 1-4, you have to overcome some doubts. But our kids are pretty resilient.”
Senior Lane Botkin agreed with his coach, and has been a factor in the Falcons’ turnaround. The North-South selection has done just about everything for the Falcons this season, from playing Wildcat quarterback to returning kicks and starting on defense. Botkin had a rushing TD, returned a punt for a score and had 11 tackles last week against Dreher.
“I’m just trying to do whatever I can for the team to help us win. I’m trying not to be a selfish guy,” Botkin said. “I just want to do whatever I can to help team win.”
Botkin said the team had a “selfish mindset” early in the season, but that isn’t the case now. He also said the seniors have done a good job bringing the team together.
“Winning builds everyone’s confidence up,” Botkin said. “… We talk about it every week, to just keep going hard in practice and keep it going every week.”