The Nation Ford Falcons punched their ticket to the Upper State finals with a 1-0 win over the Greenwood Eagles on an own goal by the Eagles late in the game.
On the road for the first time in the playoffs, Nation Ford came into Greenwood and played on a turf field similar to what the Falcons play on at home, but kept their same intense play as they have shown nearly all season. The Falcons now take on a familiar foe in Region IV rival Clover, which they have beaten twice this season, for the Upper State championship 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at home.
“They are a fantastic team,” said Nation Ford head coach Jon Jarrett on Clover. “It will be a great match-up.”
The lone goal in the game against Greenwood was set up off the hustle of Martin Cruz for Nation Ford and a mistake from a Greenwood defender.
The offense for both teams slowed as the second half wore on with each team getting fewer chances at scoring. With about 14 minutes left in the game, Nation Ford’s Cruz crossed the ball into the box where it was accidentally knocked into the goal by a Greenwood player to put the Falcons up 1-0.
“He hit a blistering ball,” Jarrett said. “Martin was all over the field tonight. Our defense flew to the ball.”
Greenwood got an early free kick about eight minutes into the game, but curved the shot to the far left, missing the goal completely.
In terms of gaining an early advantage, Greenwood was able to do that with two shots on goal for the Eagles, only one of which Falcons’ keeper Ryan Halas was able to stop. Frustration started to build within the first 12 minutes of the game as Nation Ford got two early yellow cards.
Nation Ford had a chance to score about a minute later getting three shots off in a series of opportunities, but each shot was deflected off a Greenwood player who crowded the box. Afterward, the Falcons’ possessions in the first half were hard to come by as the Eagles’ defense was too much in the early going.
Both teams had several shot opportunities through throw-ins, but could not make anything happen as the defense led the way. The Falcons' offensive opportunities grew as the first half wore on, but each team picked up the physicality as more yellow cards started flying, this time on Greenwood.
The second half started like the first half ended as Nation Ford again started controlling possession in the early going, but struggled to get the looks it needed for a clear shot. The Falcons got a free shot about seven minutes into the second half, but the Greenwood keeper was there to gobble up the shot.
Nation Ford stayed on the attack for most of the second half, but struggled to get good looks despite its control. When Greenwood was able to hold possession, it kept Halas on his toes in goal.
Once the Falcons scored the tightened thing up on defense and kept Greenwood from getting much control of the ball.
Mac Banks: email@example.com, @MacBanksFM