WAXAHACHIE — Zilch. Nada. Zip.
That’s how many points the Florence Buffaloes gave up to the Thrall Tigers in a 23-0 win Saturday, after a crushing 48-6 loss to Rosebud-Lott in Week 0.
“We took them out in practice this week, and (defensive coordinator Will) McNeil did a great job with them,” Florence coach Paul Smith said. “They just played hard; they flew to the football.”
The sun shone bright and hot at Lumpkins Stadium during the Dave Hansen Football Classic, which pitted Florence against a 1-0 Thrall team just coming off an 18-14 win against Bruceville-Eddy. The Buffs were undaunted by their opponent and the big stage.
“We were here last year and we did the same thing,” Smith said.“To us, it’s just another day to go do work. It’s a nice opportunity for our kids. But we just treat it as another football game, and get ready to play.”
The Buffaloes defense capitalized on four Tigers turnovers, including three lost fumbles and an interception by defensive back Michael Hoisington.
The first half was a defensive battle, with long drives stalling for both teams. Florence threw interceptions on their first and last possessions of the half, both to Tigers defensive back Aaron Salazar.
Florence turned a fumble by Thrall running back Alex Kyner into a rushing touchdown with about 3:15 left in the first quarter. After recovering the loose ball, the Buffaloes took possession at their own 39-yard line, setting up a 25-yard run by Fernando Ortiz and a 28-yard pass from Parker McNeil to Peyton Person. On second-and-goal, Lendell Freeman pushed it across the goal line from 8 yards out. A Freeman two-point conversion put the Buffaloes ahead 8-0.
Until the final moments of the second quarter, the remainder of the first half was marked by two stalled drives by both teams, including a Thrall three-and-out.
With 2:45 remaining in the first half, a high snap went over the Thrall punter’s head, deep in Tigers territory. He recovered, ran laterally and kicked against the backstop of Troy Schober’s hands. The ball ricocheted behind the end zone for a safety.
Florence led 10-0 at the half.
In the second half, the Buffs continued their stampede with time-eating drives and never looked back.
Two rushers — Freeman and Ortiz — eclipsed the 100-yard mark in the second half, rushing for 117 and 104 yards, respectively, on 26 combined carries.
Smith said the rushing attack was part of the game plan.
“We’re pretty young all across offense and defense,” he said. “We’re just trying to find ways to give ourselves a chance to win, and that’s exactly what we did today.”
Florence’s first drive of the second half featured four Ortiz runs, including a 4-yard touchdown plunge. McNeil completed a key 15-yard pass to Person to put the Buffs on the Tigers’ 30-yard line. From there, Ortiz’s back-to-back 9- and 18-yard runs all but sealed the score. The Buffs went up 16-0.
The game-sealing drive showed true grit. Starting on his own 9, Freeman opened the drive with an 11-yard first down run. Solid runs from Ortiz and McNeil gave the Buffs another first down on their own 31. From there, Freeman ran through the left side of the line, escaping defenders for a 71-yard score.
What was the key to the win? Ortiz put it simply: “Keeping it concentrated. Believing in the team.”