For once Florence seems to have the athletes to succeed — maybe even make the playoffs.
Kaleb Hardy is a legitimate college football prospect. The offensive line averages more than 250 pounds across the board and the Buffaloes might have the best defensive secondary in District 13-2A.
However, the biggest test for Florence this season could be its stadium woes.
With water restrictions at Stage 5 all summer, the school was unable to water the practice fields and the field at the stadium. It has left the Buffaloes wondering if they will be able to play any games in Florence this season.
Head coach Paul Smith wants Florence to hold opponents to less than 24 points per game this season. Last year, the Buffaloes surrendered 31.8 points per game, including 60 in a loss to Troy and 50 in a loss to McGregor.
Those gaudy numbers should come down this season if the Florence defensive secondary can fulfill the coaching staff’s expectations.
“Our defensive secondary is good,” Smith said. “What they are doing is making us better at quarterback (in practice). Jo Jo (Ramirez) is so good and plays with such technique that he has picked Kaleb a couple of times and is making him make better decisions and is causing us to adjust some of our routes.”
Offensively, Florence averaged 25.4 points a game — 10 points lower than Smith aims to score this season.
If Smith and his staff can get Florence to those numbers — especially if the entire season is played on the road — then he believes he could take the Buffaloes to the playoffs.
“We are going to set a high goal and I expect us to score 35 points a ball game,” Smith said. “If we can do that we have a chance to win. If we can’t, we are going to struggle.”
Florence was leading in the fourth quarter last season in six of its seven losses, including five of six in district.
“The only team that put it on us was McGregor,” Smith said. “Every ball game we were there and we were close. We are going to have to finish. We spent a lot of time working on the mental aspects of finishing.
“Because physically we are capable.”