Before each week, high school football coaches tend to say they aren’t looking past the next game.
And for both Fort Mill and Nation Ford this week — that is certainly true.
The Milltown Showdown — this season being played at Bob Jones Stadium on the campus of Fort Mill High School — is more than just a rivalry game: It’s important because each team needs a win in Region 3-5A.
With only four region games, and both teams being 0-1, it’s conceivable that a team could find its way into the playoff discussion at the end of the season with only two region wins on its résumé. But that can’t happen until that first win is secured, which one of these teams will get against the other on Friday night.
The Falcons’ head coach Michael Allen said a win is needed this week for his team, no matter who they’re playing.
“It is a region game we need to win,” Allen said. “We need to re-up our status in region play. It just so happens we are playing Fort Mill. It wouldn’t matter who it was. We need to bear down and get one in the win column.”
Fort Mill was shutout 30-0 against Rock Hill to open region play last week, and the team is now 1-6 overall. Nation Ford lost 42-27 against Clover last week and is now 3-3 on the season.
Allen said with the loss to Clover, it makes things even more important that his team gets a win over Fort Mill.
“We are 0-1 right now in the region, and that is the bottom line,” he said. “You try to win every region game, and we came up short last week (against Clover). We are expecting our guys to play 48 minutes and to play well, eliminate some mistakes and give ourselves a chance to get a ‘W.’”
For Nation Ford, the Falcons are going to have to contain a very mobile back-up quarterback in Connor Rasmussen, who has the ability to run and throw the ball. Stopping players like running back Liam Walsh and receivers Cabe Christopher and Joshua Sturgeon will also be key for Nation Ford.
Fort Mill’s offense has struggled this season, averaging just 12 points a game. It’s been shutout twice this season.
Allen said it is always special to play the Jackets in a rivalry game, especially in a tight-knit community like Fort Mill. But he also said that at the end of the day, business needs to be taken care of first.
“We both exist here (in Fort Mill),” he said. “But at the end of the day, it is another football game that we need to win and so does Fort Mill.”
Fort Mill: ‘The next game on the schedule’
Fort Mill is in the same boat in needing a win in region play. A key for the Jackets is stopping Nation Ford’s Nathan Mahaffey, who has already rushed for more than 1,000 yards on the season.
Fort Mill head coach Rob McNeely said his team doesn’t need to beat themselves.
“We have to make sure we are deserving to win the game,” he said. “That we aren’t playing both us and them.”
McNeely said Mahaffey is a great running back that will be getting a lot of focus from the team’s defense.
“They do have other players that can beat us, but he has caught our eye,” McNeely said. “We have to do whatever we can to stop him first.”
At the end of the week, as important as a win is, McNeely said they can’t change they way they do things just because they are playing a rival in Nation Ford.
“I know the juices will be flowing and sometimes it means more to the kids and fans, but us as coaches can’t change our day to day routine and make this game seem like it is more important than any other game,” he said.
“It is the next game on the schedule, so it is the most important game on the schedule.”
Full high school football schedule
Here’s a cursory glance at all the other region games this week. All kickoffs are slated for 7:30 p.m. on Friday night.
Clover (6-0, 1-0) at Northwestern (1-5, 0-0): Clover pulled away in the fourth quarter last week to top a tough Nation Ford team. The Blue Eagles have been solid on both sides of the ball all year.
Northwestern is playing its first region game after a very difficult non-region schedule that saw the team go against four of the top six teams in the state.
A win for Clover secures its top spot in the region for another week. A win for the Trojans would put them at the top of the league — and go a long way to boost confidence for the remaining region games.
Listen: FM 107.1
Nation Ford (3-3, 0-1) at Fort Mill (1-6, 0-1)
Listen: FM 101.1/AM 1340
Lancaster (2-4, 1-0) at South Pointe (6-0, 1-0): The Stallions have improved with every week of the campaign. They are currently tied for first place in the region. Lancaster has been inconsistent, but the team earned a win last week in its region opener.
Win or lose — both teams are still in the region title race and are vying for a spot in the playoffs. The loser, however, will face a tougher road to claim the region crown.
Listen: 104.1 FM
Westwood (4-2, 0-1) at York (2-4, 0-1): York has been up and down, but overall, the Cougars have improved as the year has gone along. They face a tough task in Westwood, which gave South Pointe all they wanted last week in the region opener. A win will give York some confidence heading down the stretch and it’ll keep the team in good position for a playoff berth.
A loss eliminates the Cougars from the region title chase, but it doesn’t knock them out of making the playoffs.
LISTEN: 94.3 FM
Keenan (3-4, 0-1) at Chester (6-1, 1-0): The Cyclones are flying high. The defending state champions will be at home, where they are very tough to beat. Chester got by Indian Land, 51-50, last week in a battle of top teams in the region.
The Cyclones must avoid a let down after that big win last week; a victory keeps them on top of the region standings.
Listen: WRBK 90.3 FM
Legion Collegiate (3-2) at Catawba Ridge (2-4): Both teams have shown improvement as the year has progressed. Neither team is in a region, and both are very young. This game will give the respective coaching staffs a chance to see how far they have come, where they are right now — and what mark they will leave at the end of the year.
Listen: Cable 103
Lewisville (2-4, 0-2) at Lee Central (3-2, 1-1): The Lions are in desperate need of a win. Despite super performances from Demetric Hardin, they dropped their first two region games. That all but eliminates them from region championship contention.
The playoffs are still in reach, but they will need to get a win this Friday night to stay in the hunt.