FLORENCE, Ala. (WHNT) – For episode three, On the Road with Olivia and Claudia heads out to the Shoals to preview two teams less than two miles from one another – Mars Hill and Florence.

The 2022 season was another season with high expectations for the Mars Hill Panthers, but they fell short of their ultimate goal, getting upset in the second round of the Class 3A playoffs.

Head coach Darrell Higgins said this group has been motivated since the night of November 11.

“As soon as the season ended it was a page turn, sense of urgency and every time we go out it’s been a lot of fun seeing them work and get better, focusing on getting better every day and doing a great job of leading. I think these guys have got some goals that they want to accomplish and things they want to do,” Higgins said.

One of those guys ready to lead Mars Hill back to the top is quarterback Griffin Hanson. He has been starting for the Panthers since eighth grade, taking over for his older brother Joseph, and he said he learned a lot from watching the former Panthers star.

“When we were younger, we were the young guys on the team and we got to look up to the older guys on the team and they kind of set the standard for us, and they showed us how to do it and how it’s done and how to be a winning football team,” Hanson said.

Now going into his senior year, Higgins has a lot of confidence in his starting quarterback.

“I don’t know what to do without a Hanson at quarterback since I’ve been at Mars Hill. He was the state championship MVP as a ninth grader. He’s continuing to put the work in and has been an outstanding leader and player, and he’s really fun to coach and just looking forward to this year to continuing to get better,” Higgins added.

Let’s head right down the road to check in with Kenny Morson and the Florence Falcons, who also feel good about their quarterback position.

Dual-threat senior Leo Glover is back after leading the Falcons to an 8-3 record last year. Now with a season under his belt, both Glover and Morson feel good heading into this fall.

“I’m very comfortable. I feel extremely ready for this next season, I’m looking forward to it,” Glover said.

“Once he settled in and we gave him a lot more freedom in our offense last year and him understanding our offense, all of that has improved and that’s just gotten better and better into this year. We obviously knew coming into last year that Leo could win with his feet. Very talented, very athletic, we’re working tremendously on the passing side of it. He really worked on that part of his game. At this level, accuracy is paramount in what you’re trying to do from a quarterback perspective,” Morson added.

Last year was a pretty good start to the Morson era in Florence, going 6-1 in the region and making their second straight playoff appearance. Morson said he’s learned a lot and is now ready to build off of that in year two.

“When I took over the job, it was like drinking water out of a fire hydrant. Building off of the eight wins, was a great start for us in our first year, especially after starting out the way we did and then making a run at the end. The stuff we’ve implemented with these kids has been phenomenal, we’re really proud of where we are with that, outside of just the football stuff. Been a lot of comfort with getting that first year under my belt,” Morson added.

Both Florence and Mars Hill open the 2023 season on the road for week zero.