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Playoffs on the line
West eyes win in the Branch
West Forsyth quarterback Lance Baker (11) and running back Ben Emert (44) lead the Wolverines into a crucial subregion matchup Friday at Flowery Branch. - photo by Jared Putnam

West Forsyth Wolverines (6-1) at Flowery Branch Falcons (7-1)

When: 7:30 p.m. at Flowery Branch High, 4450 Hog Mountain Road, Flowery Branch

Last season: did not play

Coaches: Frank Hepler (WF); Lee Shaw (FB)

Players to watch: RB Ben Emert, DB Rusty Juneau (WF); QB Connor Shaw, RB Imani Cross (FB)

Outlook: Second place in the subregion, and most likely a state playoff spot, will be on the line when the Wolverines visit Falcon Field. Flowery Branch has started clicking offensively the last few weeks, and will give the Wolverine defense plenty of work.

For previews of other local games:

* North Forsyth Raiders at North Gwinnett Bulldogs.

* Chamblee Bulldogs at Forsyth Central Bulldogs.

* South Forsyth War Eagles at Peachtree Ridge Lions

A postseason berth is within sight for West Forsyth, but to keep their chances alive the Wolverines will first need to pry a victory from the talons of the Flowery Branch Falcons.

Throughout the season, West head coach Frank Hepler has pretty much brushed off any discussion of whether or not his Wolverines have what it takes to make the state playoffs in their first varsity season.

The focus is just on getting better every week, he’s said, and wins and losses will take care of themselves.

So even with the young Wolverines facing a visit to the Falcons’ nest tonight that might end up deciding their postseason fate, Hepler still plays down the playoffs as a focus for the team.

“We have talked about playoffs some this week, not a lot,” Hepler said. “We talked about how we possibly could fit into the playoff picture. But we are concentrating on getting prepared for another excellent football team. These games will make us a better program in the future.”

The Wolverines are 6-1 on the year, but aren’t assured of anything beyond the regular season with a 2-1 subregion mark.

Playing in a highly competitive Subregion B within Region 7-AAA, West will have to finish in front of either Gainesville or Flowery Branch — both 3-0 in subregion — to grab one of two playoff spots. Having already lost to Gainesville three weeks ago, the Wolverines need to beat the Falcons tonight to have a shot.

That’ll be easier said than done, though.

The Falcons appear to have gotten better as the year has worn on. Since an opening week loss to Stephens County, Flowery Branch has won seven straight, with scoring outputs averaging 43 points the last four games.

Hepler describes quarterback Connor Shaw — brother of Georgia Tech quarterback Jaybo Shaw — as “excellent,” and says freshman running back Imani Cross is a powerful option in the backfield.

Cross ran for 133 yards and two touchdowns, filling in for another injured player, in the Falcons’ 42-3 win over East Hall last week.

On the defensive side of the ball, defensive end Izaan Cross is a standout with the ability to dominate, Hepler said.

“I think they have an excellent team. They are well coached and they play hard,” Hepler said.

In other county action, Forsyth Central hosts Chamblee tonight, while North Forsyth heads to North Gwinnett and South Forsyth drops in on Peachtree Ridge.

Weather and field conditions could factor heavily in the games, as an all-day rain is expected to soak the area through the night.