Fort Mill Sports

Nation Ford looking strong up the middle on defense

The Nation Ford Falcons take the practice field for the 2018 season. The Falcons plan to  deploy a seven or eight-man front on defense most downs.
The Nation Ford Falcons take the practice field for the 2018 season. The Falcons plan to deploy a seven or eight-man front on defense most downs.

As much as an offense carries a game, it’s the defense that has to be just as good to make a team whole.

The Nation Ford Falcons don’t feel like that is going to be a problem this year.

“We are further along this year than we have been,” said Falcons’ defensive coordinator Kirkley Russell.

The Falcons lost a big key to the defense from last year’s team in Travell Crosby, who graduated. However, Russell said he feels like Nation Ford has two leaders who will be stepping up this season to fill the gap in Michael Peterson and Ashten Schaufert.

Both are seniors. Peterson plays outside linebacker and Schaufert plays defensive end and middle linebacker.

“Everybody has bought-in and the kids are hungry,” Russell said. “They are very coachable.”

Russell said he plans on still keeping with a seven or eight-man front for the Falcons’ defense and feels confident that if opponents are able to break through that, the Nation Ford secondary, led by junior safety Petey Tuipulotu, will stop them.

“He cleans up a lot of our mistakes,” Russell said. “We feel like we are good up the middle. We feel confident in what we are running.”

At times, the Nation Ford offense struggled last year with its personnel, which sometimes led to the Falcons’ defense being on the field more than what’s optimal. The Falcons had one of their best games defensively against Northwestern last year in a 20-17 win. They came back the next week and held Fort Mill to just 13 points in the annual rivalry game, which was also a win for the Falcons.

This season, Nation Ford again will have tough non-region opponents in defending state champion South Pointe, which they have struggled against. Similar non-region opponents from last year include Lancaster and Indian Land, both of which only scored seven points on the Falcons last year.

Nation Ford will see a strong defensive test right out of the gate to open the season with games at Spartanburg and South Pointe and will host Conway in the second game of the season Aug. 24.

Mac Banks: mbanks@comporum.net, @MacBanksFM
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