Shane Davis has been in the coaching profession long enough to know a quality region when he sees one.
Davis is seeing one first hand this fall as the Apalachee High School Wildcats continue their trek down the Region 8-AAAAA road.
After facing Gainesville and Clarke Central in recent weeks, the Wildcat coaches and players know the game will not be any easier this Friday when they host Flowery Branch.
“I’ve coached in some regions that were fairly tough, but the one we are in now probably has been the toughest. You usually have a couple of teams who separate themselves from everyone. In the region this year, you have Gainesville, Flowery Branch, Clarke Central and Heritage who are extremely tough and they are teams just behind them who are also very good.”
While the Flowery Branch program went through some offseason changes in terms of coaching, Davis said the Falcons really have changed a great deal in terms of their schemes.
“They are right in line with what they’ve always done,” Davis said. “They may run the football a little more than in the past. Their last three quarterbacks have been Division I talent. Their current quarterback is also very good. He’s not very tall, but he is extremely fast and runs their offense very well.”
At this point, Davis said he expects region foes such as Gainesville, Flowery Branch, Clarke Central and Heritage to be good “year in and year out.”
“Until they show they aren’t as good, you have to assume they will be a quality opponent,” Davis said.
Flowery Branch will line up in a 3-4 look defensively, after using a 4-4 a season ago.
“They swarm to the ball and have a team full of really good players,” said AHS offensive coordinator Joel Miller. “They are solid at every position. Sometimes you watch film of teams and see some weak players at spots. However, that is not the case with Flowery Branch. They are good at every position.”
With the Wildcats needing a region win to get back in playoff contention, the AHS coaches know the challenge that awaits the program this week.
“This region does take a toll on you,” Davis said. “On one hand, it prepares you for what you would see in the playoffs. However, it’s also tough to be ready mentally and physically week after week. The wear and tear on your body can become an issue. You have to compete at such a high level in order to have a chance.”
The Falcons started the season 0-2 overall, but has since bounced back for a 2-0 record once the Region 8-AAAAA schedule began.
"Flowery Branch is a spread zone option team," AHS defensive coordinator Matt Sorrells said. " They have more run plays than most other spread teams we see. We will have to be very sound on our reads and responsibilities to make sure that no one is out of position.
"The only other time that I remember a region being this tough was when I first started coaching here at Apalachee and Brian Moore was the head coach. We were in region 8-AA with Buford, GAC and Wesleyen. Those teams had several high profile Division 1 players like Darius Walker (Buford-Notre Dame), Chad Hall (Wesleyen-Air Force) and Brandon Sutherland (GAC-UGA). Their teams were head and shoulders above the rest of the region. The only difference is that our region now, top to bottom, is more competitive than 8-AA was back then."
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at R. Harold Harrison Stadium.