High School Football

Defense’s turn to lead Nation Ford football

Nation Ford defensive backs break up a Woodward Academy (Ga.) pass into the end zone Friday morning during the first day of the Cam Newton Foundation 7-on-7 national championship tournament. Friday’s action determined seeding for Saturday’s double elimination knockout tournament.
Nation Ford defensive backs break up a Woodward Academy (Ga.) pass into the end zone Friday morning during the first day of the Cam Newton Foundation 7-on-7 national championship tournament. Friday’s action determined seeding for Saturday’s double elimination knockout tournament. bmccormick@heraldonline.com

For the past several seasons, it has been the Nation Ford Falcons offense that put up insane statistical numbers. The other side of the ball will have to carry more weight this season.

Nation Ford returns just two starters from its offense and will have a new quarterback under center in either Kirk Rygol or Chris Layle, both seniors. Defensively, the Falcons have more experience coming back with six starters returning off a team that nearly made it to the 4A state title game.

“We have got a lot of experience on the defensive side of the ball with the exception of our (defensive line),” said head coach Michael Allen. “There (the defensive line) we feel comfortable, but who fills the spots will be determined. I think we have a chance defensively to be good.”

The main positions Nation Ford should excel at on defense this season would be at the linebacker positions and in the secondary.

“We are athletic defensively,” said defensive coordinator Kirkley Russell. “We run pretty well and our linebackers are about as good as I have coached collectively.”

+12 Nation Ford turned the ball over 12 times on offense (in 14 games) last season, but produced 24 turnovers on defense. Junior Ben Tuipulotu led the way in that category with an area-high seven interceptions, and two fumble recoveries to boot.

Players like junior Vinny Catan and senior Corbin Tesimale should anchor the linebacking corps for Nation Ford, while in the secondary junior Ben Tuipulotu should be all over the field. Harry Goodwin also returns in the secondary. Tesimale led the team in tackles with 145, and Catan brings back 132 tackles as well from last year.

Tuipulotu said he believes that until the offense gels, it will be the defense leading the way.

“I think the defense is going to have to carry the team early on,” he said. “I like the way our secondary is looking. I like our linebackers too. I won’t have to worry as much about coming downhill.”

Last year’s defense had 13 interceptions, including seven from Tuipulotu, and 11 fumble recoveries. The key will be replacing defensive linemen like Charlie Newton, The Herald’s All-Area defensive player of the year last season, Jordan Helms and Jonquavious Benton. Those guys helped the Falcons rack up 49 sacks as a team, while taking pressure off the second level of the defense. Nation Ford will get to see how well their defense is working together when they open the season at home Aug. 19 against Irmo.

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