A heavy fog and wet field didn’t slow running back Nathan Mahaffey and the Nation Ford Falcons as they got a 14-5 win over the Blythewood Bengals to open the 5A state playoffs. It was their first 5A playoff win in football.
For two weeks, Nation Ford (6-5) has been prepping for their playoff opener against the Bengals but couldn’t plan for the poor field conditions brought on by the weather. The Falcons were looking for their first playoff win since 2015. Blythewood (6-4) got a playoff win two seasons ago in 2016, but missed the playoffs last season. The Bengals came into the game led by running back Jaylon Boyd with nearly 800 yards on the ground and 12 touchdowns.
Nation Ford sophomore Gabe Huitt got the start at quarterback after regular starter Wayde Prince was injured against Chapin in the regular season final. The Falcons leaned heavily on their run packages with Mahaffey leading the way. The junior topped 200 yards rushing for the third time this season.
A steady mist and fog engulfed the stadium at Blythewood High for kickoff. Both teams struggled to move the ball in wet conditions in the early going.
Toward the end of the first quarter, Blythewood put together a lengthy drive, with every play coming on the ground, moving to the Falcons 11-yard line and set up a 28-yard field goal to put the Bengals on the board.
As much as Nation Ford struggled early on, all it needed was one big play to turn things around as Mahaffey broke through the line of scrimmage midway through the second quarter and sprinted into the end zone from 80-yards out to put the Falcons up 7-3 with about five minutes left in the half.
Blythewood got a safety to open the second half, which helped pull the hosts within one score of the Falcons.
Up by just two and starting at the 4-yard line, Nation Ford moved the ball to the 18-yard line. A 15-yard pass interference call gave Nation Ford new life, and Mahaffey again put the team on his back and rushed the ball in from 67-yards out to put the Falcons up 14-5 with about 10 minutes left in the game.
“That was basically the ball game,” said Nation Ford head coach Michael Allen. “Those two big runs by Nathan. He expects to do things like that.”
Nation Ford struggled to move the ball through the air, which with the conditions allowed the Bengals to key in on the Falcons’ run game. The Falcons didn’t pick up a first down until midway through the second quarter. Weather conditions didn’t help either team as both squads combined to fumble the ball six times in the first half.
Mahaffey rushed the ball for 215 yards on 23 carries for the Falcons and two touchdowns and for Blythewood, Boyd rushed the ball 20 times for 116 yards.
Up next for Nation Ford is Dorman, who breezed through their first round game against Greenwood, winning 52-0. The Falcons will travel to Dorman for the 7:30 p.m. second round game.
Nation Ford 14, Blythewood 5
Nation Ford 0;7;0;7;-;14
B - Miles Heitman 28 field goal, 10:06
NF - Nathan Mahaffey 80 run (Quinn Castner kick), 4:55
B - Safety, 11:01
NF - Mahaffey 67 run (Castner kick), 10:07
First downs 8;17
Passing yards 38;176
Fumbles/lost 4-2; 5-2
RUSHING Nation Ford: Nathan Mahaffey 23-215, Gabe Huitt 3-(-12), Kaleb Starnes 1-1, Team 4-(-9). Blythewood: Brandon Edwards 2-2, Jaylon Boyd 20-116, King Ford 10-28, Jordan Burrell 6-4.
PASSING Nation Ford: Huitt 8-17-0 38. Blythewood: Ford 11-23-2 175, Burrell 1-2-0 1.
RECEIVING Nation Ford: Mahaffey 2-17, Starnes 3-11, Harrison Cohen 1-5, Steven McFadden 1-3, Petey Tuipulotu 1-2. Blythewood: Edwards 5-49, Boyd 1-23, David Patten. 3-45, Jacob Owens 2-38, Josh Burrell 1-21.
Records: Nation Ford 6-5, Blythewood 6-4.