The Florence Buffaloes are out of playoff contention in 2015, but building a foundation for 2016 begins Friday.
Florence closes out the season against the Rockdale Tigers at 7:30 p.m. at Stampede Stadium.
“You always want to win your last ballgame of the season,” Florence head football coach Zane Bode said. “We’re graduating two to three starters on the offense and we have six coming back on the defense along with a couple of others on defense that got a tremendous amount of playing time. We want to end on a good note, take that into the offseason, get stronger, get faster and we’ve got a great group of kids coming back, so we’ll go from there.”
The Buffaloes (4-5, 0-4 District 10-3A, Div. I) are looking to end the season on an upswing while Rockdale is locked into the No. 2 playoff seed out of the district.
Florence is coming off a 28-8 road loss against No. 4 and three-time defending state champion Cameron Yoe while Rockdale solidified its playoff spot with a 27-21 win over Troy.
The Tigers won last year’s game against Florence 54-10.
“I want to see (us) execute on offense, on defense, fight, play hard and get after it,” Bode said.
The Buffaloes’ loss to the Yoemen was a sloppy, wet affair and Florence played Yoe even through the first 24 minutes, but Yoe scored 28 straight points in the second half.
“There’s plenty of positives,” Bode said. “The main thing is that our kids were playing extremely hard. They played that way throughout the game and I’m really pleased with that.”
Florence’s defense took advantage of the elements to limit Yoe to 294 yards of offense and 11 first downs while recovering three fumbles.
Junior linebacker Cutter Calallan led the defense with a sack, two tackles and a fumble recovery. Freshman Weston Matthews had a sack and caused fumble, senior outside linebacker Dalton Hosman finished with four tackles and recovered a fumble, and junior defensive back Luis Olalde broke up a fourth-down pass in the end zone.
Sophomore tackle Ethan Bowers and senior defensive lineman Simeon Davis also caused fumbles.
Offensively, Florence was able to slow the pace with its run game that averaged 3.9 yards per carry.
Bowers was a part of an offensive line that paved the way for Edel Hernandez to rush for 161 yards on 38 carries. Hernandez scored a rushing touchdown from 8 yards out to cap the scoring.
Junior quarterback CJ Giddens completed 2 of 4 passes for 41 yards and sophomore tight end Matt Edgar led the wide receiver corps with a 38-yard reception.
Friday will also mark the final time the 14 seniors on Florence’s roster will play in a football game.
“We wanted to change the culture, and I believe our seniors have bought into that,” Bode said. “They’ve worked extremely hard, given us great leadership and sometimes things don’t go your way, which is the way life is. Our seniors have tried harder every week and I’m blessed to have a group of seniors that are going to keep fighting.”