FLORENCE — The upset-minded Florence football team kept pace with defending State B champion Eureka for one quarter Friday.
But Garrett Graves and the top-ranked Lions proved too much for the Falcons in the end as the visitors prevailed, 56-20.
Eureka struggled out of the gate. Graves threw an interception to Colby Kohlman on the Lions’ first offensive play of the game but bounced back with a touchdown their next possession.
“Our whole team, we had a long bus ride down here so we were feeling a little sluggish. But we came out here, we got a little hungry and a little hungrier each quarter,” Graves said.
A 29-yard, toe-dragging catch by Marcus Zeiler from Colby Kohlman put the Falcons on the board. A successful two-point conversion gave them an 8-7 lead. Kohlman and Zeiler connected again in the fourth quarter for a 26-yard score.
“Those two click well together. They been playing sports together for a long time. But we have other receivers out there that are running their routes to allow Marcus. And our other receivers are getting open, as you saw in the second half,” Florence coach Pat Duchien said. “We figured it out, did a little bit of an adjustment, started utilizing some of our other receivers. It’s huge to have him, even if he's being double teamed.”
After that Florence lost its footing. The Falcons muffed a punt return to begin the second quarter and Eureka’s Brian Little fell on the ball in the end zone to regain the lead for the Lions.
Penalties grounded the Falcons for the remainder of the half. Several promising runs were called back due to holding, putting Florence in long punting situations.
“I didn't see a whole lot of work for us in the first half. We had a lot of penalties. We had a lot of mistakes. We didn't play how are normally used to playing. You can't beat a very solid team fundamentally sound team when you're making mistakes,” Duchien said.
Eureka’s Brenton Pluid returned one of those punts 70 yards for a touchdown. Graves led a last-minute drive to end the half and capped it with a 13-yard keeper for a touchdown.
“We tried to make some adjustments at halftime," Eureka coach Trevor Utter said. "Instead of packing them in and running the ball we went ahead and spread it out to run the ball, and that worked pretty effectively for our power read game.”
Graves rushed for two more scores in the second half. Jake Kindel pounded in his second touchdown of the night, and the Lions wouldn't be caught.
"Some of that adversity is actually good for the team,” Utter said. “Some of those adverse things are good for you when you look at your team and what you're trying to publish on the season.”
Florence went down with a fight. Zeiler flashed the soft hands one more time in the fourth quarter, hauling in a 26-harder from Kohlman.
Friday's 36-point victory will be important for Eureka as the season progresses. The Lions don't play Bigfork this season and Bigfork beat Florence by just six points. If Eureka and Bigfork both stay undefeated, Eureka will have the upper hand in the tiebreaker.
Florence hosts Thompson Falls (2-4, 0-3) next week. Eureka travels to play Deer Lodge (0-5, 0-3).