FLORENCE — Florence’s defense wouldn’t be contained. Neither would Falcons quarterback Kendrick Doss on fourth down.
Doss rushed for 160 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries and converted all five of the Florence’s fourth-down attempts, including two scoring runs.
Meanwhile, the Falcons turned in their best performance of the season defensively, racking up six sacks and holding Class 6A, No. 4 Austin scoreless until the final 35 seconds of a 25-10 win that derailed the Black Bears perfect season.
The win clinched a playoff spot and keeps Florence (5-3, 6-1 Region 8) in play to nab the region’s No. 1 seed for the first time since 2007.
The Falcons must win next week at Sparkman and hope for Austin (7-1, 6-1) to bounce back to beat Bob Jones (6-2, 5-1), while Black Bears would need a win and a Florence loss to take the region title.
Doss twisted the dagger. He broke free and bounced outside for a 51-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-1 to give Florence a 19-3 lead with 33.8 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Falcons got the ball back after an Austin fumble at the Florence 31, and Doss capped a 63-yard drive with an 11-yard touchdown run for a 25-3 lead with 7:20 to play.
That made it 25 consecutive points scored by the Falcons after they trailed 3-0 on a 28-yard Austin field goal with 8:29 left in the first quarter.
Austin turned it over four times — two fumbles and two interceptions — and accumulated 72 of its 184 yards on its final possession, capped by Chris Sparkman’s 24-yard pass to Ashton Kracke with 34.8 seconds remaining.
Josh Walker netted 101 yards on 15 carries for the Black Bears.
“We talked about it since Day 1,” Austin head coach Jeremy Perkins said. “Adversity is going to happen. It’s not a matter of if it’s going to happen. We’re going to take care of it and we’ll bounce back.”
“They were just athletic. They were beating our tackles around the edge, and their quarterback is just a good player. We expected him to make some plays tonight, and he did.”
Florence seemed content to match Austin’s early field goal, lining up to attempt a 36-yarder in the first quarter. But after a timeout, coach Jamey DuBose opted for a Doss to Irving Adams pass for 13 yards to convert a fourth-and-4. That set up a three-yard Ronnie Vaughn touchdown run that set up a 6-3 lead after a missed extra point.
Doss converted twice on fourth down on Florence’s following possession. He rushed 18 yards to pick up fourth-and-1 at Austin’s 36 before darting into the end zone from 11 yards out on fourth-and-3, capping a 67-yard drive to set up a 13-3 halftime lead.
He added the two second-half scoring runs and Florence held Austin to one first down in the second half before its late touchdown drive.
Sophomore outside linebacker Dee Smith played some defensive end for Florence, presenting speed mismatches for Austin’s tackles. He finished with three sacks and a tackle for loss. Linebacker Roland Adams added three sacks for the Falcons.
“We were watching the line on film. Every time they had their hands down we knew we could come around the edge,” Smith said. “We had somebody keying in on (Walker), and did a good job with that, and the offense just motivated us and we motivated them with big plays all night.
“But now,” Smith added, “we’re Austin fans.”
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