HUNTSVILLE — Florence used the two-quarterback combination of Dee Beckwith and Gardner Flippo to build a comfortable lead in a 28-23 triumph over homestanding Huntsville on Thursday night.
But it took a late defensive stand for the Falcons (3-4, 2-2) to emerge with a critical Class 7A, Region 4 victory over the Panthers (4-3, 1-3) at Milton Frank Stadium.
“I’ve been doing this for 22 years. Won a state championship. Never been more proud of the effort and the fight that a group of kids showed,” Florence head coach Will Hester said. “Nobody knows what we went through this week.”
Hester said his team faced adversity this week because of some key injuries and his team started a pair of first-time starters on the offensive line.
A tough week would have gotten even tougher without Isaac Mason’s interception inside the Falcons' 20-yard line on a desperation toss by Huntsville quarterback Preston Hedden with 7.1 seconds remaining.
The Panthers had the final opportunity because of a fumble by Beckwith at the Huntsville 4-yard line. It appeared the Falcons were headed to a touchdown to ice the game, but instead the defense had to make one final stop.
That was about the only mistake Beckwith made on a night he rushed 16 times for 120 yards with scoring runs of 8 and 35 yards and caught four passes for 108 yards.
When Beckwith wasn’t playing quarterback, Flippo came in and completed 8 of 9 passes for 198 yards with touchdown passes to Aaron Skipworth and Andrew Baugh.
Florence took a 14-10 lead into halftime, thanks to the right arm of Flippo and the legs of Beckwith. It was Beckwith getting the Falcons on the board with an 8-yard scamper around left end to cap a 10-play, 65-yard drive late in the first quarter to trim Huntsville’s lead at the time to 7-3.
Beckwith also had a 23-yard run on the drive that got the Falcons inside the red zone.
The Panthers took a 10-7 lead with 6:14 left in the second quarter on a 1-yard run by Kieran Craig. The Falcons managed to take the lead going into halftime on a 76-yard drive that came almost solely on the passing game. Flippo threw for 59 yards on the drive, including a 12-yard strike to Skipworth.
Florence built the advantage to 28-10 on Flippo’s 39-yard scoring toss to Baugh and Beckwith’s 35-yard touchdown run. But Huntsville clawed back and it took a key defensive play to give Florence the key region win.
“It’s huge. We can still control our own destiny,” Hester said. “If we had lost tonight, we would have still needed help. We’re going to enjoy this one tonight because no one knows what this means to us.”
Florence has three games remaining, all against Region 4 opponents. The next is Oct. 11 at home against Gadsden City.
Marshall County 48, Lawrence County (Tenn.) 3: Marshall County scored 41 unanswered points to quickly pull away from Lawrence County in a Class 4A, Region 4 game Thursday night.
It was the third straight loss for Lawrence County (3-4, 0-3).
Braden Wright’s 29-yard field goal with 5:56 left in the first quarter was Lawrence County’s only score and cut the deficit to 7-3.
Javarria Rucker and Kel Greer ran for two touchdowns apiece for Marshall County (6-1, 3-0), which will stay in at least a tie for first place in the region. Rucker also caught a touchdown pass from Bryson Hammons, Demari Braden had a touchdown run.
Lawrence County’s Hayden Dale completed 16 of 29 passes for 124 yards. Dale also led the Wildcats with 40 yards on five carries. Derrick Young caught four passes for 53 yards.
Lawrence County is off next week and then visits Tullahoma on Oct. 18.