Although they did it in a new conference, the Florence football team was still up to its old tricks Friday night.
After using a grind-it-out running attack to compile an 8-3 record in 2A last season, the host Gophers found similar success in their first game as a 3A school.
Dishon Abbs ran for 171 yards and a touchdown and Jon Gooday added 54 yards and two more touchdowns as Florence defeated Estrella Foothills 34-12.
Florence had a 273 yards on the ground and just 57 through the air.
“I love running the football,” Florence coach Shawn Cluff said. “I believe in it. We’re going to have to start moving the ball through the air in 3A, but I really like running it.”
Abbs set the tone early, scoring on a 33-yard scamper to put the Gophers ahead, 7-6.
Kyrion Nelson got in on the act in the second quarter, scoring from a yard out, and Gooday used a 45-yard quarterback scramble to pit Florence to a 21-6 halftime lead.
“I’m happy with it,” Abbs said. “The line opened some big holes for us.”
Estrella Foothills made the game interesting to begin the second half, primarily because of quarterback Ryan Castro’s wizardry. Castro — who replaced starter Franky Lynch at intermission — ran for 79 yards on the team’s first drive of the second half.
He capped it off with a 36-yard run on fourth-and-11 to bring the Wolves to within 21-12.
However, the subsequent 2-point conversion failed, and Florence wrapped up the game with 13 fourth-quarter points.
Although the Gophers completed only four passes on the night, two came at opportune times.
On a third-and-18 play in the second quarter, Gooday lobbed a perfect ball to Andy Martinez, who tip-toed the out-of-bounds line and came down with the catch on the Estrella Foothills 2-yard line.
The same duo hooked up again in the fourth on a 14-yard touchdown pass in which Martinez fell to his knees but still came away with the catch.
“Andy’s a great receiver, and he’s only a sophomore,” Cluff said. “He’s going to be a good one.”