If Nation Ford can get its QB situation sorted, 2017 could be another good year for the Falcons.
Michael Allen’s coaches have looked at as many as five different kids this summer to replace graduated QB Kirk Rygol. Junior Taylor Teti , a transfer from Independence High School in Charlotte, seems to have the inside track after some strong 7-on-7 performances in June and July.
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The Falcons surround whoever starts at QB with weapons, including two-way player Ben Tuipulotu and receiver Dewuan McCullum, who could emerge into the team’s top receiving threat with Alex Stennett graduated. Running back will be manned by committee, again; Nation Ford has really had just one featured back in Allen’s seven years. They should be solid up front with Jack Snowberger, Dylan Lee and the gigantic Travell Crosby manning offensive line spots.
Long known for its offensive statistical output, Nation Ford’s defense - nine starters return - could be what puts the Falcons over the top, especially in a region with only one returning starting QB.
Coach: Michael Allen, 7th year (38-34)
Assistant coaches: Kirkley Russell, defensive coordinator; Zak Lendyak, offensive coordinator; Wayne Richardson, defensive line; Jamel Foster, running backs/defensive backs; Jeremy Ryan, offensive/defensive line; Chris Rust, wide receivers; Taylor Irvin, offensive line; Peter Tuipulotu, running backs/receivers; Wayne Starkes, wide receivers.
Last season: 7-4, lost in the first round of the 5A playoffs
Last 5 years: 32-28, 4 playoff appearances
Playoff wins last 5 years: 2
Returning starters: 14 (5 offense, 9 defense)
Key number: 31 - Nearly 31 percent of Nation Ford’s 2016 pass completions gained between 10 and 20 yards, thanks in large part to graduated receivers Halen Burgess and Alex Stennett. Replacing those first down-length completions will be critical for the Falcons’ offense.
Key returning players: Sr. DB/WR Ben Tuipulotu, Sr. LB Vinny Catan, Sr. P/K Skyler DeLong, Jr. WR Dewuan McCullum, Sr. OL/DL Travell Crosby, Jr. CB Malik Barber, Sr. OL Jack Snowberger, Sr. OL Dylan Lee, Sr. OLB/SS John Young, Sr. WR/DB Eric Stroud, Jr. DE John Sanders.
Weakness: At least initially offensive cohesion will be a problem for Nation Ford, an issue that stems back to its quarterback situation. The Falcons won’t be the only team in that boat headed into the fall and Allen thinks his team is good enough in other areas to offset the growing pains it will have at the critical position.
Strength: No question Nation Ford’s defense should be strong. The group has experience and toughness - notably BYU commit Ben Tuipulotu and leading returning tackler Vinny Catan - and athleticism and potential - cornerback Malik Barber picked up college scholarships over the summer. They need to increase last year’s 19 forced turnovers to help the offense along.
Coachspeak: “When we go to work every day our plan is to win it all. It’s taken a while to get that established within our program, that expectation. Our expectation is to be playing in December. If that includes the region (title), then so be it.”
August: 18 at Irmo; 25 South Pointe
September: 1 Bye; 8 York; 15 at Lancaster; 22 at Indian Land; 29 Clover
October: 6 Rock Hill; 13 Byrnes; 20 at Northwestern; 27 at Fort Mill
- Nation Ford’s opponents won 47 percent of their games in 2016 (53-60) and include eight playoff teams and one state champion (South Pointe).