For the past few years, Nation Ford has met the same hurdle as their season ended.
A perennial playoff team, Nation Ford has been stuck losing to football juggernauts in the state playoffs. Last year it was the Dorman Cavaliers, who did so to the tune of 58-12.
Head coach Michael Allen said continuing to do the right things and building on that foundation is going to be the only thing that helps the Falcons clear those hurdles.
“It is going to take guys believing and working and us as coaches continuing to bring them along in our system,” he said. “You don’t get too busy looking down the road. You just focus on what you can do today and hopefully that just bleeds over and things come to you.”
Participation numbers are down for Nation Ford because Catawba Ridge has opened. It’s the newly built third high school in Fort Mill.
Nation Ford has 75 players, and will dress about 50 for varsity competition.
“Our expectations are high and our coaching staff is doing a great job in getting us prepared,” Allen said.
Some of the top players expected to lead the way this year are seniors Nathan Mahaffey and Petey Tuipulotu. Allen also pointed out that 5-foot-10, 265-pound senior Devin Hodges leads the offensive line.
“We are kind of young across the board in reality,” Allen said. “(Junior) Gabe Huitt has to do a good job for us at quarterback.”
What to know
Nation Ford will look to Huitt to guide the offense, but will rely a lot on its running game and Mahaffey, who helped to turn the Falcons’ offense last year from an air attack to a running attack.
Allen said he has always considered Nation Ford to be a family-oriented program. He said experience and saturation in the program helps to bring out leaders.
Senior wide receiver and defensive back Xavier Diaz, who is listed at 5-foot-8, 145-pounds, along with senior linebacker Korey McGarrigle, 5-foot-10, 205-pounds, are a couple players who Allen said he is looking to lead on defense.
“We are going to be leaning on them very hard,” he said. “They have to step up and be big time players.”
Allen also pointed out 6-foot-2, 225-pound junior J’Quan Carter and 6-foot, 250-pound sophomore Robert Campbell, both offensive linemen, as two underclassmen who need to step-up.
“I like our energy and our enthusiasm,” Allen said. “Our numbers are down, but the kids are more focused on being successful more now than ever.”
Coming Thursday: Rock Hill High