It is said that some teams don’t rebuild, they just reload. Nation Ford head football coach Michael Allen and his Falcons are hoping that statement applies to them.
The Falcons have been a program on the rise in recent years and certainly don’t want to start sliding the other direction. Coming off a 7-5 season which saw another trip to the playoffs and its first win over rival Fort Mill, Nation Ford is reloading this year with new faces in key positions like quarterback and receiver – two spots that has made their offense go.
Allen said he doesn’t want to say at this point that the team is reloading, but does say confidently they should be okay. Allen didn’t want to put too much pressure on his squad because of their age.
“I won’t call it a reloading year, but we are confident with the kids moving up,” he said. “But we are young. Our focus is to get ready for Forestview. We have to progress them and bring them along slowly.”
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The biggest question for the offense falls on the steady shoulders of junior quarterback Cole Martin, who is taking over for Dalton Helms, who graduated and will play football at Campbell University. Martin has had limited time under center because of Helms, but isn’t coming into the offense totally unsure of himself. Martin was 27-55 for 263 yards and one touchdown during backup duty last season.
“I got some big shoes to fill, but I’m kinda excited,” he said. “One big thing about us is we have come up through the spread offense, so we are the first class to come up the whole time using this offense.”
Martin, described as more of a pocket passer than Helms, said he isn’t worried about following in his predecessor’s footsteps, but just doing what it takes to get the win on Friday nights.
“I’m not big on set numbers,” Martin said. “I can’t worry about breaking Dalton’s records. I would drive myself crazy.”
“He is just going to have to make it his team,” he said. “He needs to acquire his own identity.”
Helping Martin find that identity will be a mixed receiving crew of youth and experience.
Led by junior Hank Tuipulotu, Nation Ford will also be relying on receivers Josh Shade, Colt Taylor and Jordan Helms. Gone this year are receivers Brandon Cureton and Riley Hilton, who accounted for 20 of the Falcons’ 30 touchdown catches last season.
Tuipulotu, who was injured most of last season, looks to improve on his 26 catches for 248 yards and one touchdown. Shade, who caught five touchdowns last year, comes back with the most returning receiving yards with 490 and Taylor snagged 37 passes for 335 yards and two touchdowns.
“Receiving wise, he (Martin) has a good group,” Allen said. “I think we will have kids rise to the occasion. We are always looking for that player.”