FLORENCE — Florence's rise in Class B has been a gradual climb over the last several years, and last fall it capped off with the school's first football title since 1977 after the Falcons went 12-0.
It was a long time coming for the Florence community.
"The community loves supporting us now, we've watched it over the last six years and the attendance grow and the support grow and these guys have to think about that first," Florence head coach Pat Duchien said. "When we talk about our 406 for our family, they got to understand that the community is part of this family and we have to work hard out here every single day so when it comes to Friday night we're able to make our community proud of us."
But last year is far in the past, and this year the Falcons enter the season with a target on their back, and with a lot of last year's talent gone to graduation.
Florence opened the season with a bang with a 30-0 shutout over Manhattan last Friday at Washington-Grizzly Stadium, and now look to keep that trend going against Townsend this week.
"There was a little bit of nerves, but honestly we weren't too scared or anything of it because we've all been a group together for a while now and we've all been working with each other and everyone has kind of been in a rotation," Florence senior center Sean Larson said. "There's just a few things that we need to kind of focus on and get more together."
Quarterback Patrick Duchien leads the way for the Falcons in his third year starting at QB, among other returning all-state and all-conference players.
There aren't many returning starters from the state championship team, but those who are know that expectations for the program are at a new high after last year's successes.
"It's always going to be there," Larson said. "Especially for a group like this. Just this team it's meant a lot to the coaches, meant a lot to the community and we have that expectation of we got to be better."
Plus, plenty of players got experience during last year's run, and are now seeing their minutes increase on the field.
With a healthy crop of seniors, Florence's successes are more about sharpening their own tools rather than learning the fundamentals of the game.
"Some of the new guys that are finally playing varsity, getting lots of varsity reps, just building trust," the younger Duchien said. "I think throughout the summer and the beginning of practices and two-a-days we built a lot of trust with these guys and I think we'll be really good going through."
Going forward, there's a simple goal Florence abides by as they make their way through the rugged Western B and aim for a second straight state title.
"Each week, we preach going 1-0 each week just win each game," Duchien said. "We don't care about the standings or what everyone has for hype around us we just want to go out and win each game and get to where we want to get to."