FLORENCE – With a key player on the injured list but others healing and back in the lineup, Florence is preparing for a home game against American Leadership Academy-Ironwood Friday.

Gophers coach Bill McKane said of the Warriors (3-3), “they’re not real big but they’re quick, they’re fast, they’re aggressive and they are very well-coached. So we know we have our hands full. They’re kind of like Ben Franklin.”

Florence (2-4) struggled to keep up with Queen Creek Benjamin Franklin last week in a contest that ended with a win 28-14 win for Benjamin Franklin.

“We have these seniors, guys like Ryan King who just really steps it up and adds so much for us at center and tackle,” McKane said. “Wrangler (Guilliams), the junior, he’s a big kid but he’s a good ballplayer.”

Tommy Carberry, who made both of Florence’s touchdowns last week, exited the game in the fourth quarter after a hard hit that resulted in a knee injury. McKane said he’s waiting to learn more, but doesn’t expect to see Carberry playing Friday.

As a receiver who also plays on the defensive side when needed, Carberry leaves big cleats to fill.

“He’s a special kid, he does it all,” McKane said. “He’ll step in and play quarterback if we need him to. … He’s a big-time player for us, so we’ll miss him.”

Aiden Cook also left last week’s game with a leg injury. An X-ray showed it wasn’t broken, and he might be playing Friday. Kaleb Lewis will be back after being out with an injury last week. Isaac Sandoval is back, “and we’re happy to have him return. … We’re getting a few kids back, so we’ll be an improved team,” McKane said.

McKane added he’s happy to see how far his team has come at this point in the season.

“These guys have improved so much it’s unreal,” he said. “We got a late start. You know we were shut down for nine days with COVID so we didn’t get to practice.”

Excessive heat also limited their ability to practice for awhile.

“We probably missed 15 days of practice, and we also didn’t get to have our scrimmage like everybody else did,” McKane added. “So we were behind the 8-ball to start the season. But I feel like we’ve caught up now. I feel like we are improved so much. I’m really proud of the kids, they’ve been focused, they have worked hard. I think we’re getting to the point now where we’re going to be competitive.”

The coach said he’s glad for the ones who are healthy, and “we’re looking forward to this game because we’re playing a good football team. … So we’re excited; we’re going to find out how good we are.”

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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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