FLORENCE, Ala. (WHNT) – As we gear up for the high school football season, News 19 will be previewing more than 40 of our Tennessee Valley programs in On the Road with Olivia and Claudia.

Episode 16 features the Florence Falcons and Mars Hill Panthers.

The Falcons are coming off a 5-6 record last season. The Florence program has a new head coach, but he’s no stranger to this community. Florence native and former UNA Lion Kenny Morson has returned to his hometown.

Morson was an assistant at Decatur for 22 years; most recently, he’s been in Fayetteville, Tennessee where he won the 2020 Class 1A State Championship with the Tigers.

What has the adjustment been like for Morson going from 1A in Tennessee up to Alabama 7A?

“1A there was a lot of coaching going on and here it’s more like a CEO running this 7A program,” Morson said. “It’s as close to college as you can get as far as managing our program and managing our young men.”

Looking ahead to the upcoming season, the Falcons are just taking things one game at a time.

“We haven’t talked a whole lot about wins and losses, but we’ve talked about fixing our culture,” Morson said. “We want to put a good product on the field that our community is going to be proud of and that means a lot to me cause being home it’s personal to me.”

Going from 7A to 3A, the new classification of the Mars Hill Panthers, who finished 2021 10-4 falling in the Class 2A semifinals.

If you’re wondering if the bump in classification matters to the Panthers, head coach Darrell Higgins will be the first to tell you it doesn’t; this program just wants to compete and they know that can be a challenge no matter what level you’re at.

“We know every class has good teams whether it’s 1A, 2A, 3A it doesn’t matter. We’re looking forward to getting in there and seeing where we stand,” Higgins said. “We know it’s a huge challenge and I think our guys are up for it.”

The semis loss in 2021 left a bad taste in their mouths so the guys don’t need a lot of motivation as they gear up for 2022, but there’s three words that Higgins is preaching to his team: tough people win.

“When you get out there and play football, a lot of times somebody might be more talented, they might have more skill, have bigger people but at the end of the day it comes down to who’s the toughest,” Higgins said. “Tough people in life they win on the football field and they win all the time so my job is to see how tough I can get them.”

Both the Falcons and Panthers kick off week zero at home on Friday, August 19.