Last season, Florence lost the lead six times in the fourth quarter.

The Buffaloes went 3-7.

This year, Florence already has two come-from-behind wins in the first five weeks of the season.

The result? The Buffaloes (3-2) have already equaled their win total from last season after getting a last-second 27-yard field goal from Matthew Mellette to defeat Troy 37-36 on Friday.

“I think (a win like that) does a lot for the kids,” said Florence coach Paul Smith. “I think the kids believe they can win now.  We came from behind three times and it is a big deal.”

Smith attributes the success to his team maturing.

“A year of maturity certainly helps,” Smith said. “It is kids working hard and believing in each other. That’s the deal. They know someone will step up and make a play and that is what they did (Friday).”

That is why Smith never debated going for it on fourth down from the Trojans’ 10-yard line, despite not having great success in the kicking game this season.

“We needed to kick it and I trusted those kids to make it, and they did,” Smith said. “So, no, there wasn’t a thought outside of getting us in field goal position and win the game.”

Florence won not just on the kick, though. The Buffaloes forced four turnovers and also had their best rushing game of the season one week after being stymied by a tough Marlin defense in a 28-7 loss.

Florence ran for 226 yards on 34 carries, including a game-high 168 from senior quarterback Kaleb Hardy.

“Marlin gave us problems personnel-wise, and at the high school level it is all about matchups and we matched up better against Troy,” Smith said. “It was just making a minor change and it helped, too. I really feel like our kids are giving us everything they’ve got.”

Third-down defense continually put Salado in bad position

Although its offense has been decimated by injuries, most notably at quarterback, the Salado defense isn’t helping out much either this season.

Part of the Eagles’ defensive woes have been the result of allowing the opposition’s offense extended drives, including being unable to stop a team on third down.

That was evident again in Friday night’s 17-7 loss to Marlin.

In that game, Salado (0-5, 0-2 13-2A Div. I) saw the Cougars convert six of their 15 third-down opportunities, but the biggest damage was done on yards gained on third down. Marlin racked up 130 yards on those 15 third-down opportunities, including 10 times for at least 7 yards, and six of those for 12-or-more yards.

Also hurting the Eagles was an inability to stop the Cougars on fourth down, as Marlin was 3-of-4 on fourth-down conversions.

By the Numbers

  • 21 — Tackles by senior linebacker Alex Ramirez in Florence’s win over Troy.
  • Minus-45 — Yards lost on eight negative-yardage plays for Salado against Marlin, including three straight for minus-24 yards to negate the Eagles’ lone offensive drive to pass the Bulldogs’ 30-yard line.

Up Next

  • Lampasas (1-4) at Gatesville (5-0), 7:30 p.m. Friday — In the District 8-3A opener for each team, both momentum and history are firmly positioned in Gatesville’s corner. The Hornets are coming off a bye week following an upset of then-top 10 Waco La Vega and have beaten the struggling Badgers in each of the last four encounters (2006-2009).
  • Salado (0-5, 0-2 13-2A Div. I) at Florence, 7:30 p.m. Friday — Florence, for once, might have the upper hand in the rivalry. The Buffaloes are coming off a 37-36 last-second win over Troy while the Eagles are ravaged with injuries at the quarterback position, resorting to their third-stringer in Friday’s 17-7 loss to Marlin. There should be plenty of points, though, as Florence and Salado are the bottom two defenses in the district.

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