The Blue Eagle footballl team shifts its focus to Nation Ford Friday night, seeking to recapture the level of play the Clover team showed for nearly three quarters last week against Gaffney.
The Region 3-AAAA game begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Nation Ford stadium.
“Nation Ford gave Northwestern a good game last week,” CHS head football coach Chad Smith said, referring to the Falcons’ 48-25 loss to the No. 1 ranked Trojans. “They were in it until the fourth quarter.”
Smith has a plan how to deal with Nation Ford.
“They’ve got those four really good receivers; one is exceptional,” he said. “Gage Moloney is a great quarterback. If we can turn it into a wrestling match instead of a race, we’ll be all right.”
Smith has seen the Nation Ford program grow into a contender in one of the strongest high school football regions in the Carolinas.
“This is my third year here,” he said. “In two of the three years I’ve been here, Nation Ford has competed for a top three spot in this conference. If you can compete in the top three in this conference, you can compete with just about anyone.”
The Blue Eagles traveled to Gaffney last week but lost 50-15 in the latter stages of the third quarter and into the fourth quarter. The score was knotted at 15-all with six minutes left in the third quarter.
“We played extremely well for two and a half quarters,” Smith said. “After that, we missed a couple assignments and Gaffney’s speed took over a little bit. Our kids fought the entire game. We’ve still got to continue to get better, but we made a major step forward Friday night. The Indians definitely knew they were in a ball game.”
While Smith is looking for improvement on the defensive side of the ball and would prefer fewer turnovers, the Blue Eagles continue to move the chains offensively.
“Ever since we switched back to the double-wing when conference play started, we’ve been averaging between 275 and 300 yards per game, which is what we want,” said Smith. “We have to be more efficient. When you turn the ball over, it nullifies some of the yardage gained.”
He added: “The yardage is definitely there, which means our young offensive line is starting to get a lot better. We’re very excited about going forward. You never know what can happen.”
Smith recognizes the Blue Eagles’ opportunity to clear a hurdle Friday night at Nation Ford.
“If we can hold onto the ball for long stretches of time, and end drives with scores instead of turnovers, we’ve got a very good shot Friday,” he said. “If we don’t, then it’ll turn out like the last two Fridays.
Smith added: “When we’re efficient at what we do, we’re pretty good. When we’re not, we’re not very good. If we can be disciplined going in there, we feel really good about Friday.”
Smith makes a point about the Blue Eagles’ offensive production, taking into consideration the team’s rushing totals against Gaffney. Clover rushed for 275 yards, averaging 4.44 yards per rush.
Willy Clark, Tanner Tolson and Cody Payne led the team. Clark rushed for 104 yards on 23 carries, averaging 4.52 yards per rush. Tolson gained 82 yards on 16 carries for a nifty 5.13 yards per carry. Payne, a senior stalwart, rushed for 77 yards at 4.28 per carry, including a touchdown.
The other touchdown for the Blue Eagles was quarterback Noah Lindsay’s 28-yard touchdown toss to Jackson Parrish.