You can count on one hand how many times Florence has made past the first round of the Class 4A playoffs.
After defeating NE Jones 57-29 this past Friday night, the Eagles reached the second round of the MHSAA Class 4A for just the fourth time in school history.
The other three times that has happened was 2000, 2001 and 2011.
Florence (10-2) will host East Central (8-4) at Eagle Stadium on Friday night in the second round.
Florence head coach Steve Pruett has been part of all four of those times, twice as an assistant coach and twice as an head coach.
“When I took over the program in 2010 I wanted to try to teach the kids to learn how to win,” Pruett said, whose in his seventh year as head coach at Florence. “At first we just wanted to be competitive and get in the playoffs. Now we need to be consistent and be in the playoffs and win playoff games, that is the goal now.”
Well if Florence want to end this second round curse they must try to stop East Central junior running back Tony Brown, who leads the nation in rushing yards with 2,862 yards and 35 touchdowns. Wing back Jessie Bradley has rushed for 978 yards with touchdowns for the Hornets. East Central is averaging right at 460 yards a game rushing.
“We’re just going to do what we do and just run our base defense,” Pruett said. “They come off the ball really well and we are going to have to match their physical abilities. The Brown kid just runs the ball so well.”
Florence also likes to run the ball as well averaging 273.3 yards on the ground and also 104.8 yards passing.
Quarterback Brad Dennis anchors the offense passing for 1,205 yards with eight touchdowns and as rushed for 1,141 yards with 19 touchdowns.
Running back Degerrick Lee has rushed for 1,483 yards with 18 touchdowns.
“They score 50 points a ball game, so how are going to match? Well, we’re just going to run our offense and just hope we can keep pace with these guys,” Pruett said. “We’re just gonna go out and see what we can do.”
SE Lauderdale gets a deja vu moment
It’s 2013 all over again for the SE Lauderdale Tigers.
This past Friday the Tigers, who was a No. 4 seed coming in, defeated Morton 49-42 in overtime and now they will host Seminary on Friday in the second round of the MHSAA Class 3A playoffs.
In 2013, SE Lauderdale went on the road to Morton and won and hosted Seminary the following Friday where they lost.
“I got to thinking about that on the bus drive back home Friday night,” said SE Lauderdale coach Charles Black said. “How odd is that?”
But this one was more dramatic then the 2013 matchup. Morton was 42-28 with two and a half minutes left in the fourth quarter, but SE Lauderdale scored a touchdown, converted a onside kick and then scored another touchdown to tie the game and force overtime.
In the overtime period, the Tigers scored on their second play to take a 49-42 lead and on Morton’s first play of their possession they fumbled heading into the end zone that sealed the win for SE Lauderdale.
“I give all the credit to my kids for fighting,” Black said. “We just kept chipping away and hoping we could catch a few breaks with us recovering the onside kick and tie the game and then to have a guy fumble the ball going into score.”
The Tigers (6-5) are coming off a 2015 season that they went 0-10 and are now in the second round of the 3A playoffs.
“We just kept pushing them and had a tough offseason where we pushed the kids and they worked hard,” Black said. “This season has been a complete turnaround and the kids are having fun and have a ton confidence in themselves and we will need that this Friday because Seminary is a big and fast football team. We will need to play our best to have a chance.”
Road teams get job done
There were eight teams that went on the road and won first round playoff games.
Only one team went on the road and won in Class 4A, Mendenhall edged McComb 36-30. In the second round Mendenhall will host St. Stanislaus.
In Class 3A, there were three. Yazoo County shut out Mooreville 34-0, North Panola blanked Benton County 42-14 and SE Lauderdale defeating Morton 49-42. Now this week, Yazoo County will host Charleston, North Panola will host Velma Jackson and SE Lauderdale will host Seminary.
The most was in Class 2A with four and they were all in the South. Madison St. Joe went to Newton and defeated the Tigers 20-16, Union blanked Pisgah 37-13, Heidelberg defeated Puckett 22-13 and Prentiss defeated Taylorsville 28-12. Next week, Madison St. Joe will host Bassfield, Union will have to go on the road again to Prentiss and Heidelberg will host North Forrest.