It’s safe to say that 2016 was one of the most memorable seasons in Florence football history.

The Buffaloes returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2011, and head coach Zane Bode admits that he expects to carry the success from this season into many years in the town.

“We really took a step in the right direction this season,” Bode said. “Of course, you aren’t going to be satisfied unless you go to the state game, but I’m proud of the way we played this year as a group.”

Florence will be without star running back Edel Hernandez in the 2017 season. The 5-foot-8, 185-pound back will be a player that Bode will never forget.

Hernandez accounted for 19 touchdowns, and rushed for 1,400 yards on 227 carries on the year, which averages over six yards per carry for the senior.

“You can’t replace a player like Edel,” Bode said. “He’s just one player who you wish you can have every season, but that is the nature of the business. Edel didn’t care if he got one yard or if he got 100, he just wanted to win the game.”

Along with Hernandez, the Buffs will be without Cutter Callan, Zack Pluhar and Martin Quenga that Bode echoed are players that every coach wishes they had every year.

Callan was a key force for the Buffaloes’ success in 2016 with 35 solo tackles, 14 tackles for loss and six sacks. Callan was named a District 13-3A, Division II Co-Defensive Player of the Year.

“Both Cutter and Edel are straight-A students, and of the highest character that I have ever coached,” Bode said. “These young men are two-way starters and the main reason we have broken a 15-year playoff drought in Florence.”

Every member of the Florence football program bought into Bode’s winning attitude, and there is no reason to think that next year will be any different.

After the run the Buffs put together this season, the bar has been set very high for years to come, but Bode thinks his players will be ready for the challenge come next August.

Returning next season will be signal caller C.J. Giddens, Landon Byrne, Alex Gamboa and Matthew Edgar, who all had outstanding seasons for the squad.

“All of these young men on the roster this year really took a step forward,” Bode said, “and they brought back that winning culture to the town of Florence. That’s what I am really excited about.

“These kids work their tail off every day and I think we can be equally good, if not better in 2017.”

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