QUEEN CREEK — After a halftime score of 21-0, Florence fought back in the second half Friday against Queen Creek Benjamin Franklin.

Tommy Carberry caught a pass and ran 60 yards for the goal, putting the visiting Gophers within a touchdown of Benjamin Franklin with 7:36 left in the game. But the euphoria didn’t last, as three seconds later the Chargers’ Dawson Smith ran in the kick return for a score of 28-14, where it stayed until the final buzzer.

Carberry made both of Florence’s touchdowns and Smith made all four of Benjamin Franklin’s touchdowns.

Chargers coach Dave Jefferies said Smith isn’t physically big but he’s extremely powerful, “one of the strongest kids pound-for-pound in the weight room. He quietly just does his job, works hard, he’s not a big flashy guy. I’m just real proud of how hard he runs. He plays both ways. He plays a secondary on defense, he’s on special teams, and just had a great night tonight; he likes to find that end zone.”

Smith’s first touchdown was only about 20 seconds into the game, a 70-yard run from scrimmage, that “made it look like it was going to be a quick night,” Jefferies said. But Florence “fought, battled and hung on for dear life. And Coach (Bill) McKane does a good job coaching those kids. They’ve got some offensive weapons and made it scary for us for awhile,” Jefferies said. “It was a good game.”

McKane was equally proud of his team.

“Going in, we knew we were going to have our hands full,” he said. “(The Chargers) are a good 4A team, so I’m proud of our kids. I think they played their buns off. They played well. They did some good things tonight, they didn’t quit. They were not intimidated, and they did not fear. There’s no fear in these kids,” McKane said.

Florence had rough going in the first half. The closest they came to scoring was when a pass completion to Carberry put the ball on the 12 yard line near the end of the first quarter. But penalties on each side sent the ball back for a replay on the third down, and the Chargers took possession as the second quarter began.

Florence finally got a break in the third quarter after punting to Benjamin Franklin. The home team’s penalties put the ball 98 yards from goal. Then two plays later, the Chargers fumbled and the Gophers got the ball just four yards from goal. Carberry ran around the right side for Florence’s first score of the night.

Benjamin Franklin had a big second quarter, intercepting the Gophers 23 yards from goal, which set up their second touchdown. They drove to the 3-yard line before making a path for Smith to run it in.

The Chargers later recovered a fumble, but unsportsmanlike conduct eventually backed them up to 73 yards from goal. Ridge Allen caught a big pass for a 45-yard gain, and the Chargers drove to the 4 yard line before Smith punched it through.

The Gophers attempted a 29-yard field goal as the half expired.

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Mark Cowling is the county reporter for PinalCentral and covers the town of Florence, San Tan Valley and the surrounding area. He can be reached at mcowling@pinalcentral.com.

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