The Flanagan football team had yet to be tested this season.
The Falcons passed one Friday and improved its status as a state championship contender.
Led by a stingy defense that forced three turnovers, Flanagan scored 27 unanswered points to rally for a 33-10 road victory over Cypress Bay.
“With the weather we knew we would have some adversity. Let’s overcome it out there tonight,” said Flanagan coach Devin Bush, who remained energetic and vocal throughout the game. “There’s no better place to be Friday night, playing against a great opponent. I try to enjoy every minute of it.”
Senior linebacker Willie Williams recovered two fumbles, including one he returned for a touchdown, and posted two second-half sacks to lead the Falcons (4-0, 1-0 District 12-8A).
Stanley led Flanagan’s offense, throwing three touchdown passes and finishing with 159 yards. Stanley also ran for a score and converted a two-point conversion run.
A 48-yard touchdown catch and run by receiver Keavon Mitchell, who caught two touchdown passes, put Flanagan ahead for good early in the second quarter.
“This was supposed to be our first test, so winning by over 20 points is big for us,” Stanley said. “We made some turnovers, but we bounced back strong in the second half.”
Cypress Bay (2-1, 0-1) took a 10-6 lead following a 40-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Cole Stealy to tight end Kole Moxie to start the second quarter.
But Flanagan’s defense, self-nicknamed “The Dirty Birds” since before the season, totaled six sacks led by Williams as the unit shut out the Lightning from that point on.
“We don’t want any offense to score on us,” Williams said. “This defense is too good to be scored on. The Dirty Birds are a name to remember.”
Flanagan’s defense began a huge second half when Bradley Hall sacked Stealy, forcing a fumble that Williams picked up and ran back 10 yards for a touchdown that put Flanagan in front 20-10.
“My defensive end made a big play and I just picked up the ball and took off,” Williams said. “This was an amazing night and there’s more to come.”
Cypress Bay drove into Flanagan territory on the ensuing drive.
But Williams again was on the spot, recovering a fumble on a bad snap by Cypress Bay to end another scoring threat.
“Willie is a smart kid,” Bush said. “From Day One, he was focused on learning our defense and our style of play. If he messes up, he takes accountability for it. He’s a great kid and we’re glad to have him.”