If this year’s game is like those from the past, drama is one thing that won’t be lacking in the Fort Mill-Nation Ford rivalry football game this Friday.
The annual Milltown Showdown has Fort Mill and Nation Ford coming into the game with different goals in mind. Fort Mill clinched a playoff spot after Clover fell to 0-4 in Region IV Friday, while Nation Ford is still in the hunt for the region championship if it wins Friday. Also, a first or second place finish by Nation Ford gives the Falcons a home playoff game for the second straight year.
Despite other rivalry games in York County having a longer history, it is hard to top the intensity of Fort Mill-Nation Ford game, now in its 10th year.
“It is an awesome experience,” said Fort Mill head coach Ed Susi.
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“Not just coaching it, but being out here because of both sides, and the atmosphere, and noise and the kids going at it. It is an awesome feeling. That is what you get into coaching for. It gets your blood going. It’s fun and exciting out there. I wouldn’t change it for anything.”
This year for Nation Ford, which is 4-5 overall, has been anything but normal after struggling early on to find its quarterback. Falcons head coach Michael Allen used five players at the position this season and seems to have settled on Ben Tuipulotu.
Allen said he knows playing Fort Mill means a lot to his team when it comes to playoff seeding, a potential region title and a win over their rivals. He said he expects Fort Mill to be a strong team to contend with, especially on the Jackets’ home field.
“They are good up front,” Allen said.
“They are fast and they execute their offense as good as anybody we play. They are a dangerous football team. They are consistent always. At the end of the day, a win is a win and that is what you want. We are trying to win ball games and put the ball team in the best possible position.”
Due to its early season struggles, Nation Ford is averaging about 17 points a game, while giving up 25 points a game. Its season high in points scored is 38 against Clover and the Falcons gave up 53 to South Pointe.
Fort Mill’s roller coaster
Fort Mill has had its share of struggles as well of late after starting the season 3-1. The Jackets are now 4-5 overall and 1-2 in region play.
“We have seen them all summer running into them during 7-on-7s,” Susi said about Nation Ford.
Susi said facing a quarterback like Tuipulotu makes it difficult for the Jackets to prep for because of his versatility.
“You have to prepare for anything,” Susi said.
Susi said playing the Falcons is more than just securing a seeding for the playoffs.
“It’s a rivalry game,” Susi said. “We want to beat them as much as they want to beat us and get a higher seed in the playoffs.”
Fort Mill is averaging scoring 26 points a game while allowing roughly the same amount at 27 points a game. The Jackets scored their most points against Clover and Lancaster with 38 in each game. They also have given up over 40 points a game on two occasions – their season opener against Spring Valley and recently against Dorman.
Susi said believes their first-round playoff opponent will be either Hillcrest or Greenwood. The potential first-round opponent for Nation Ford is still up in the air. Whether the Falcons open the playoffs on the road or at home should largely be determined with the outcome of the Fort Mill game.
Tickets for the big game are on sale 8-10 a.m. and 1-3 p.m. Wednesday and 8-10 a.m. and during FLEX time Thursday at Fort Mill High. For more information, call 803-548-1900.
Mac Banks: firstname.lastname@example.org, @MacBanksFM