Asked about a preference of kicking the football or running with it, Florence running back Beau Griego didn’t hesitate to choose the latter.
“Kicking it is kind of nerve-wracking and running the ball is more to my nature,” Griego said following the Gophers’ 32-30 come-from-behind victory on Sept. 27 over Phoenix Cortez at the FHS field.
Griego was chosen the day before the game to fill in for regular kicker Pierre Weir, a foreign exchange student who returned to Germany over intersession break. The novice kicker made 2 of 5 extra point attempts, but also gained 85 yards on 18 carries and made 12 tackles on defense — seven of them solo.
“Having to kick kind of threw me off, but I tried to do what I had to do,” said Griego, whose 2-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter put the Gophers ahead to stay.
Griego’s game-winning touchdown — his second of the game — came with 6:04 remaining in regulation.
“Our offensive line played great all night,” Griego said. “If it wasn’t for them, (the winning score) wouldn’t have happened.”
Ramsey Garcia intercepted a Uriel Lopez pass and returned it 22 yards to the Colts 5-yard-line with 33 seconds remaining, allowing Florence to run out the clock.
“It was all Z (linebacker Zaire London). Z hit him just right and I was just there,” said Garcia, who also blocked a 40-yard field goal attempt in the first quarter and finished with nine solo tackles. “I almost got in, but their guy was pretty fast, though.”
Ian Campos led Florence with 147 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 17 carries. Bobby Herrera completed 10 of 18 passes for 252 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions, as the Gophers racked up 489 yards in total offense.
Sophomore William Garcia and London had 14 and nine tackles, respectively, as the Florence defense held Cortez to 169 total yards.
“I was very proud of how the offense played,” Gophers Coach Steve McKane said. “We put our defense in a bind with terrible field position all night. But the defense came up big when they needed to.”
Cortez (1-4) scored first on a 25-yard field goal by Romero Payan. Florence (3-2) then built a 20-3 lead on a 4-yard score by Ian Campos, a 76-yard touchdown strike from Bobby Herrera to Matt Ramirez, and a 2-yard run by Campos.
The Colts fought back with a pair of rushing touchdowns of 6 and 1 yards by Lopez, the second one set up by a blocked punt deep in Florence territory. That cut the Gophers’ lead to 20-16.
“We gave them an open door with our special teams play,” McKane said. “Our special teams did not play well tonight. We gave them plenty of opportunities and we have to get that corrected.”
“We capitalized on a few big plays, and I think the kids are starting to take some pride in what they do,” Colts Coach Ross Luna said. “They’ve been down for a long time, and they’re starting to figure it out. They’re starting to care.”
A 9-yard touchdown run by Griego extended Florence’s lead to 26-16 with 3:46 left in the third quarter. Cortez responded with a pair of scoring passes — 21 and 4 yards, respectively — from Lopez to Isaiah Saints, the latter coming with 9:26 remaining, giving the Colts a 30-26 lead.
“It was a fun game,” Luna said. “Florence played hard and made the big plays when they needed to and we didn’t.”
Gophers vs. Seton
Tomorrow, the Gophers host Chandler Seton Catholic, an old foe now playing in Division IV. The last time Florence and Seton Catholic met in football was in 2006.
The Sentinels come in with a 4-1 record. After opening the season with wins over Goodyear Estrella Foothills and Maricopa, Seton Catholic suffered its only loss, a 28-23 decision to Snowflake. Since then, the Sentinels have defeated Cortez (47-13) and Scottsdale Coronado (34-0).
With four games remaining, McKane likes the progress made by his young squad.
“We’re getting better every week and that’s all I can ask,” McKane said. “This was a big step, and our overall effort has to be elevated every week. Our kids are doing that, so I’m proud of how they are preparing to play every day in practice. They’re preparing the right way.”
Cortez 3 13 7 7 - 30
Florence 14 6 6 6 - 32
C-Payan 25 FG
F-Campos 4 run (B. Griego kick)
F-Ramirez 76 pass from Herrera (B. Griego kick)
F-Campos 2 run (kick failed)
C-Lopez 6 run (pass failed)
C-Lopez 1 run (Payan kick)
F-B. Griego 9 run (kick failed)
C-Saints 21 pass from Lopez (Payan kick)
C-Saints 4 pass from Lopez (Payan kick)
F-B. Griego 2 run (kick failed)