FORT MILL — Report cards were given out Wednesday at Nation Ford High School in Fort Mill. The football team would get pretty good marks for its season thus far. Junior quarterback Dalton Helms would too. Helms has put up some nice passing numbers so far, helping the Falcons to a 5-2 record overall and 3-2 mark in Region 3-AAAA.
Daltons very important in terms of his leadership and knowledge of what were doing, Nation Ford coach Michael Allen said Wednesday. Hes irreplaceable. Daltons never one to be satisfied with where he is; hes always looking to improve.
The Falcons average roughly 385 yards of offense per game, as Helms (6-foot-2, 180 pounds) has regularly been able to find the talented senior receiving duo of Dijuan Ussery and AK McCoy, who have combined for 69 catches, 1,429 yards and 16 touchdowns through seven games. Slot receiver Riley Hilton is also a reliable target and the Falcons have a solid backfield pair in Daniel Jackson and Andrew Barr. With that supporting cast and those figures in mind, its not surprising Helms gave himself pretty good grades at the high school football midterm mark.
Youre always happy with your success, but then theres always things youve got to work on, he said, before practice. Id have low As, but theres always improvement there. I have great weapons around me, but I would say still room for improvement.
Nation Ford, which opened in 2007, went 5-5 in the Class AAA regular season last year before beating Clinton on the road in the first round of the playoffs. The Falcons crashed out with a thud in the second round, getting blanked 28-0 by Daniel, but it was still a landmark campaign for a school that won 10 games combined its first four years.
This season, the schools first in Class AAAA, has seen the Falcons continue their leap. They ran the ball primarily in 2011, but Allen was able to install his preferred offense this past offseason with Helms and a talented skill player group in mind. Nation Ford has put up big numbers, averaging over 35 points per game, and the Falcons are on pace for the schools first winning regular season.
Were currently that way, said Allen, chuckling. A lot of football to play yet.
The Falcons have a tough stretch of remaining games: visits to Rock Hill and Northwestern, sandwiched by home contests with York and Fort Mill. But Allens team is confident it will win at least two of those, and has belief that an upset is possible against state-ranked York or Northwestern.
We just have to get more proficient, said Allen. We cant turn the ball over.
Heading into last Friday nights 43-14 loss to South Pointe, Helms had thrown 15 touchdown passes and only three interceptions. But the Stallions miserly and active defense forced the junior into six interceptions en route to a blowout that clipped the high-flying Falcons. According to Allen, it was a learning experience for the whole program, not just the quarterback.
Not only Dalton, but his coaches learned a little bit last week. Probably put a little too much on his plate, we put him in some positions that made him make decisions that ended up costing us, and his receivers dropped some balls, said Allen. But, you know I just think he learned some perseverance and the will to work to get better. Failure is not a bad thing sometimes. Its just like life; you brush yourself off, you get yourself up and you get back to work.
Nation Ford is doing that this week, but faces just as difficult a task this Friday night, hosting another undefeated squad in Bobby Carrolls York Cougars, the states sixth-ranked Class AAAA team.
Helms, who releases the ball with a quick-draw wrist flick, said he needs to, just make better reads, and if its not there, make the smart decision and throw it out of bounds or tuck it down and run.
Allen knows his signal caller took heat for the Falcons last week, but that comes with the position.
The quarterback is out there in front of everybody and gets to touch the ball every time, said Allen. If youre throwing no interceptions and for 300 yards, everythings great. If youre throwing six picks, its right there for everybody to tell you how bad you are. So, he understands the position, and he understands what comes with it.
The Falcons might look to try and get the ball in McCoy and Usserys hands even more Friday night against York. Both players caught a short pass against South Pointe and turned it into a 45-yard touchdown, and both have clocked 40-yard times in the low 4.4s, Division I speed without question.
Its not a secret that he does have some weapons either side of him, Allen noted. And with a very good running back behind him, so yes thats helped him a great deal.
The game-changing offensive unit will have a major impact on Falcons footballs final 2012 grades, but regardless of the seasons outcome, this group is already leaving its mark on a burgeoning school.
Were setting the way for up and coming teams, said Helms. Were showing our freshman class how were going to play and how this tradition will continue for years.
Nation Fords coaches have explained to the players that the Falcons laid the football programs asphalt last year. This year theyre painting the lines.
Bret McCormick 329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T