FLORENCE — If there were any doubts about Florence's status as the team to beat in Class B football this season, the No. 1 Falcons quieted them with a 35-14 statement win over No. 2 Eureka on Friday.
Florence, the two-time reigning Class B state champion, jumped out to an early 14-0 lead behind a stout defense and big-play offense. The Falcons forced Eureka into a three-and-outs on the Lions' first two offensive possessions. Florence's offense responded both times with long touchdown plays.
Mason Arlington aired out a beautiful deep ball to Drew Wagner for a 29-yard touchdown for the game's first points. Arlington did it with his legs on the Falcons' next possession, breaking free down the sideline for a 43-yard touchdown run.
Eureka, which couldn't get its rushing attack going early, turned to the air on its third possession. AJ Truman connected with Caden Pecora for a pretty sideline throw and catch that set up a Truman-to-Tristan Butts touchdown moments later. That made it 14-7, but Florence's defense took over from there.
The Falcons' line pressured Truman into an errant pass that landed in the waiting arms of linebacker Tyler Abbott. Abbott easily returned the interception 25 yards for a touchdown to give Florence a 21-7 lead. The Falcons pushed the lead to 28-7 just before the halftime break when Arlington found Gabriel Hartsell-Miller, who took it down the sideline for a 32-yard touchdown.
Eureka trimmed the deficit to 28-14 early in the third quarter on a 15-yard scoring run from Pecora, but neither offense could generate much traction after that as the game turned into a tense, physical defensive battle. The Florence defense finally got the opportunistic stop it needed to help put the game out of reach.
Late in the fourth quarter, Truman couldn't handle a snap in the shotgun formation, and the Falcons jumped on the loose ball deep in Eureka territory. On Florence's first snap after the turnover, Ethan Alexander took the snap, waited patiently behind his offensive before breaking outside and walked into the end zone.
Florence improved to 7-0 overall and 3-0 in the Western B and will play at Thompson Falls next week. Eureka, meanwhile, fell to 6-1 overall and 2-1 in the Western B. The Lions are back home next week to face Whitehall.
Elsewhere in Class B ...
No. 3 Red Lodge 55, Roundup 6
No. 4 Columbus 48, Townsend 7
No. 6 Manhattan 46, Three Forks 8
No. 8 Shepherd 42, No. 10 Huntley Project 28
No. 9 Jefferson 69, Big Timber 6
Anaconda 18, Whitehall 7
Cut Bank 48, Fairfield 6
Glasgow 41, Conrad 6
Malta 52, Wolf Point 0