ROCK HILL — A stifling defense by the sixth-ranked Northwestern and too many mistakes by Nation Ford aided the Trojans in a 42-19 win in a battle for second place in Region III-AAAA.
A lot was riding on the game Friday night at District III Stadium, as the winner not only clinched second place in the region, but also locked in a home playoff game in the first round something Nation Ford has never had.
Both teams came into the game with identical records 7-2 overall and 4-1 in the region and both teams have shown similar air-it-out offenses.
But a strong second quarter was all Northwestern needed, as it scored 21 points with the help of two key Nation Ford turnovers.
We really challenged our kids all week to win for the seniors, said Trojans head coach Kyle Richardson. You know you have to still go out and execute, and that is what we did.
The Trojans second scoring drive started in the first quarter and went into the second.
Northwestern moved the ball mostly on the ground, as junior quarterback Mason Rudolph spread the ball around to his backs and kept it himself on occasion.
The Trojans capped off a 15-play, 80-yard drive with sophomore running back Dupree Hart scoring from three yards out.
Nation Ford looked to put together a good drive midway through the second quarter, but junior quarterback Dalton Helms was picked off by Trojans senior Jakari Golden, who returned it to the Falcons 26-yard line.
Northwestern took advantage of the mistake and junior Tori Adams scored on a one-yard run after Rudolph got the Trojans to the goal line on an eight-yard run.
Things got even better for Northwestern on the Falcons next drive as Helms was sacked coughing up the ball at their own 15-yard line and junior linebacker Russell Hubbs would gobble the ball up to run in for a touchdown.
Nation Ford again put together a good drive, reaching the Trojans 24-yard line, but Helms again was picked off.
The Trojans added a score in the third quarter, as they went 60 yards in six plays with Rudolph hitting senior Jared Balasco for a 14-yard touchdown set up by a 15-yard pass to senior Rontavius McClure.
A poor punt by Nation Ford gave the ball back to Northwestern at the Falcons 21. The Trojans scored two plays later to make it 42-0 as McClure caught his second touchdown of the game.
In the fourth quarter, Nation Ford would finally get on the board going 90-yards on seven plays before senior Daniel Jackson, who had a heavy work load for the Falcons, would score from two-yards out. Jackson rushed the ball for 96 yards on 24 carries.
The Falcons recovered an on-side kick and scored again with just over two minutes left on a Helms two-yard run after a 37-yard completion to senior AK McCoy.
After a second on-side kick, the Falcons scored for a third straight series, with Helms hitting McCoy on an 18-yard pass.
Nation Ford recovered a third straight on-side kick, but ran out of time and couldnt score again before the game ended.
Northwestern 42, Nation Ford 19
NW Mason Rudolph 15-yard pass to Rontavius McClure (Sully Foy kick)
NW Dupree Hart three-yard run (Foy kick)
NW Tori Adams one-yard run (Foy kick)
NW Russell Hubbs 15-yard fumble return (Foy kick)
NW Rudolph to Jared Balasco 14-yard pass (Foy kick)
NW Rudolph to McClure (Josh Bell kick)
NF Daniel Jackson two-yard run (Corey Condron kick)
NF Dalton Helms two-yard run (kick failed)
NF Helms to AK McCoy 18-yard pass (conversion failed)
Rushing Nation Ford: Daniel Jackson 24-96, Dalton Helms 11-40, Riley Hilton 1-(-3), Andrew Barr 2-4, AK McCoy 1-2.
Northwestern: Dupree Hart 4-14, Lathomas Long 9-59, Tori Adams 13-39, Mason Rudolph 8-48, Julian Shockley 4-22.
Passing Nation Ford: Dalton Helms 11-23-2 173, AK McCoy 1-1-0 11.
Northwestern: Mason Rudolph 19-25-0 196, Matthew Worley 1-4-0 7.
Receiving Nation Ford: AK McCoy 4-70, Dijuan Ussery 4-77, Riley Hilton 1-10, Hank Tuipulotu 3-27.
Northwestern: Rontavius McClure 7-81, Tori Adams 2-24, Mustafia Love 3-34, Dupree Hart 3-14, Lathomas Long 2-14, Jared Balasco 2-20, Ahmad Dewese 1-16.
Records: Nation Ford 7-3, 4-2 Region III-AAAA; Northwestern 8-2, 5-1 Region III-AAAA.