FLORENCE — History just keeps rolling at Florence High School.
Two years ago, the Falcons won their first state football championship since 1977, and their first ever in 11-Man football.
Now fast forward to this year, the Falcons just defeated the Manhattan Tigers this past Saturday to win their third straight state football championship, the first program ever to do it at the Class B level.
It was a thrilling win for Florence, a team used to blowing out opponents, but had to fight tooth and nail for an overtime victory over Manhattan.
But the Falcons dug deep, and emerged as champs once again.
"Honestly, it was probably my favorite game ever," senior safety and receiver Tyler Abbott said. "Actually competing to the final play, greatest thing ever. It was just the best, like going against the best of the best. Just every play, it was a battle, every play."
"Well, I think we gotta give kudos to big Ben Kivela, for stripping that ball in overtime and us recovering it, like that was that was pretty special," Florence head coach Pat Duchien said. "It was reminiscent of the of the Cat-Griz game, you know, few years ago (in 2018), and he he wanted it more than anybody else. And he got his hand in there. And we got some good photos of it. So it's it's a legit strip. It was great."
Ask the Falcons, and this dynastic run all stems back to November 2020 when they lost in the semifinal round to Fairfield in a heartbreaking 8-6 loss in the bone-chilling cold on the road.
It's been a talking point ever since, and to win a knock-down, drag-out game against Manhattan, was just another example of how far the program has come.
"It meant everything," Abbott said. "Because those seniors my sophomore year, just watching them in the offseason after that semifinal loss, and watched them put in that work and build this legacy and build this culture. Just to keep it going. It means the world."
The Falcons won a Class C 8-Man title in 1977. From there, it was a long drought before they broke through in 2021 to win the Class B championship over Bigfork, one year after that semifinal defeat.
A couple of bumps followed in 2022 before they set the record straight and cruised to complete back-to-back title runs with a win over Missoula Loyola in the championship game.
But entering this year, the Falcons were a bit of an unknown because of the lost talent after two successful campaigns, but this year's squad came out firing, and never looked back.
"Kind of towards when the playoffs started, our entire senior class kind of got together and we talked about, you know, whatever happens, happens, but we're gonna go out with a bang," senior safety Trapper Oster said. "We're gonna scrap and we're gonna fight and we're gonna make teams earn it, not just hand it to them. So definitely think we went out with a bang. But yeah, it was really just a collective effort not only from the seniors, but all the underclassmen. Kind of knowing that like what the seniors had to lose, and that were being super supportive.
"I mean, it was definitely a nail-biter. we haven't been down much this year, that's definitely the game with the most adversity we've had to go through. But I mean, walking into the locker room at halftime (down 14-7), and no one looked like they had given up, I mean, everyone was ready to go make it right. Yeah, and then you go into overtime. And I think the feeling was alright, we've been here twice before we haven't been able to get it done. This is the time to do it."
And what resulted, was history, as the Falcons, a team that went decades before reaching the mountaintop again, completed the 3-peat, a feat no other school in Class B's storied history had done.
"They led from within, you know," Duchien said. "That's one of the coolest parts of this season was the player's led from within. It wasn't a whole lot of coaches that had to reiterate the culture, right? It was done through the players amongst each other. And they stayed really in tune with what they all the players had going on, you know, and they helped each other out. The leadership was phenomenal this year. They didn't falter. And these guys the look of determination in their eyes when I went in at halftime said it all you know, I knew they were coming out ready to go.
Florence has gone 36-2 over the last three seasons, and they'll bid goodbye to 11 seniors from this year's team.
But as far as the future, who knows?
There could be more success in store for a team that is now one of the gold standards in the state.
"I wouldn't want to do this with any other group of people," Oster said. "This has seriously been a life changing experience. I'm young, but I can say that from everywhere for the coaches, the players, it's just been one big family and I wouldn't want to do it with anyone else."