FLORENCE — When the Florence football players gathered in the locker room before their first game of the year, they hoped the season would lead to a playoff victory.
The guy who ended up securing that first round playoff win wasn’t even in the room.
Ted Borden is a senior soccer player who never played football until this year and didn’t kick for Florence until the fourth game of the current season.
But with three seconds left Friday night at Braly Stadium, Borden drilled a 42-yard field goal to give the Falcons a 24-21 win over Mountain Brook in the first round of the Class 7A playoffs.
It was Florence’s first playoff win since 2014, first as a member of Class 7A and first under second-year coach Will Hester.
The Falcons (7-4) will play Thompson next week.
“All my friends came up to me and asked me to be a kicker, because I do kickoffs in soccer and I kick them really far. Coach Hester came to a game and saw me,” Borden said as he held the football he just kicked. “ … It’s fun, so I went out and did it. I love it.”
Borden said he wasn’t nervous, and his kick had plenty of extra distance. He knew it was down the middle immediately, and seconds later Florence students poured onto the field in celebration.
“It’s crazy,” Borden said with a big smile. “It’s crazy.”
Hester shared plenty of hugs in the minutes after the game, including one with boys soccer coach Glenn Harscheid.
“Here’s the deal. It was 21-21,” Hester said. “We weren’t going to lose it on the kick, so we told Ted have fun, swing at it just like you do at practice and we’ll see how it happens.”
Florence’s defense seemed too fast for Mountain Brook a few times during the game, but the Spartans (8-3) tied the game at 21 with their first drive of the second half when Strother Gibbs threw a 24-yard pass to Sam Higgins.
Mountain Brook advanced to the red zone on its next possession, but Florence forced a fourth down and the Spartans’ 31-yard kick was wide left with 9:15 left in the game.
The teams traded punts after that, and Florence took over at its own 24 with 58 seconds left. Florence senior Dee Beckwith had left the game on the previous drive with an apparent ankle injury but re-entered and got Florence past midfield in two plays.
Beckwith’s clever shovel pass to Lajuan Jones got Florence to the Spartan 33 and was followed by a quick pass to Jakobie Hurley to put Florence at the 25. Hester called timeout, and Borden took care of the rest.
Beckwith scored all three of Florence’s touchdowns, on rushes of 73, six and nine yards. The second TD was set up directly by a blocked punt that Preston Hardin recovered.
When Florence’s offense got in a jam, it was often Beckwith either passing or running and he usually converted.
“There’s an S on that chest somewhere,” Hester said.
Defensive lineman Quintarious Abernathy made several key plays, including a third-down tackle on Mountain Brook’s final drive. But he wasn’t alone as numerous Falcons on defense excelled. A sack on that same drive, for example, was due directly to effective coverage.
“Our defense balled out,” Hester said. “They rose to the challenge.”
Florence must now travel to Thompson, the team that eliminated the Falcons in last year’s first round, 45-14. Thompson beat Austin 54-20 on Friday.
The Falcons will think about that soon, but Friday was for celebrating a step forward.
“It’s humongous,” Hester said. “Last year’s senior class and this year’s senior class are helping build the program we want to be. All the kudos go to these kids, man.”