A long-time staple on the east Alabama prep football scene, the intense Valley-Lanett football rivalry is in jeopardy because it hasn't been competitive in recent years with Lanett losing students and dropping to Class 2A and Valley playing in 5A.
Florence, one of the top junior prospects in the state this season, did his part to help Valley win the matchup last Friday night between the two high schools that are separated by six miles of U.S. Highway 29.
"It was real important for us to go out with a big win so we can let people know what it used to be like," the 6-3, 186-pound safety says.
Florence was credited with six solo tackles and six assists despite watching from the sidelines much of the fourth quarter after the Rams took a commanding lead on the way to a 33-2 victory.
Florence is shown during Friday's game at Lanett.
In spot duty at wide receiver, the junior caught four passes for 69 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown play in the closing seconds before halftime. "They were out there talking a little D-I junk saying, ‘He's D-I, he's D-I, he's D-I.' I was just out there being calm. I asked coach to give me a shot to catch one and he did."
Florence used his excellent speed to run past the Lanett defense on the play and caught a perfectly throw pass to put the visitors up 19-0 going into the locker room at halftime.
"We had a pretty good game," Florence says. "We were kind of sluggish because we had too many penalties, but overall we had a good win."
Nicknamed "A," Florence is already attracting a good bit of Division I attention. He has offers from a variety of colleges, including the closest Division I program to Valley, Coach Gene Chizik's Auburn Tigers. Chizik's staff has noticed and made an early scholarship offer to the safety who says he is interested in the Tigers and a variety of other colleges.
However, as a junior his focus is on school (he is a straight A's student) and helping the 4-1 Rams win more football games. Valley's only loss was an opening night setback to unbeaten 6A power Auburn High.
Florence spends most of his time on defense for the Rams.
"If everybody plays to the best of their abilities, we can make a run at the 5A state championship," Florence says. "I really do think that."
On the field and on the sidelines, it is obvious that the junior is making an effort to be a leader for the Rams. "Our coach has always told us that it doesn't take a senior to be a leader," the safety says. "He said if you see something that needs to be done, you can step up and lead whether you are a senior, freshman, sophomore or junior."