Catawba Ridge’s Jacobie Henderson moves the ball up field during the Copperheads game against Nation Ford Friday night. Photos by Rob Upton

Catawba Ridge head coach Zac Lendyak said he didn’t need to make any wholesale changes Friday night as his Catawba Ridge team entered halftime tied 7-7 against crosstown rival Nation Ford.

Just a few little changes, he said, would mean the difference between winning and losing.

“We were just one thing off on both sides of the ball,” he said. “Once we figured those things out, we put together a much better product.”

Catawba Ridge’s offense, which had been faltering in the first half, hummed after the break. The Copperheads scored four straight unanswered touchdowns to pull out a convincing 35-14 road win at Nation Ford Stadium. Sophomore quarterback Jadyn Davis was 17-for-28 for 292 yards and four touchdowns in the game.

The win, combined with Catawba Ridge’s 35-0 rout of Fort Mill in the season opener, means Catawba Ridge, now 2-0, is the undisputed football “champion” of the town. It’s an honor that means a lot to Lendyak and his team, who joined the team when the school first started back in 2019. Lendyak was an assistant coach under longtime Nation Ford coach Michael Allen, whose team he beat Friday night. Nation Ford is now 0-2 on the season.

“It’s very emotional for us, for the kids, for everyone,” Lendyak said. “I spent a lot of time (at Nation Ford), and it felt great to establish what we did.”

Catawba Ridge secured the early lead on its opening drive of the first quarter. Davis took over on the Falcons’ 39-yard line and led a quick two-minute, seven-play drive that culminated in a three-yard scoring pass to Lane Boutwell who was open in the middle of the end zone.

Nation Ford strung long drives together in the first half, earning drive times of more than five minutes at least twice. The Falcons slowly drove from their own 18-yard line to Catawba Ridge’s 19 before junior quarterback Carson Black’s offense finally ran out of steam.

But Nation Ford struck paydirt midway through the second quarter with one of those long drives. Between Black’s arm and running back Eli Whitner’s legs, the Falcons pushed their way up the field from their own 15 to Catawba Ridge’s 12 before Black found Brooks Johnson in the Copperheads’ end zone to tie the score up at 7-7. The 12-play, 88-yard drive chewed up nearly six minutes of game-time.

The two teams traded possessions until Catawba Ridge had one final chance of the first half. Henry Bowen kick-started the Copperheads’ faltering offense to help push his team to the Nation Ford 5. Davis then bobbled the snap on second and goal and fell on the ball at the 18.

Davis tried to find Jacobie Henderson through the middle, but his pass was swatted away. Catawba Ridge still pushed up to the eight for fourth and goal, thanks to a Nation Ford taunting call, but Davis was sacked on the ensuing play just seconds away from halftime.

Allen said he was frustrated with his team’s lack of discipline, and promised that he would root out individuals on his squad. 

“These penalties, they create an environment that culminates to not being successful,” Allen said. “We’re not a very good football team at the moment. (On Monday), we’ll warm up and we’ll run. We’ll find football players who want to play football, instead of talk.”

In the Catawba Ridge locker room, Lendyak showed his team game film of missed blocks or assignments and implored his Copperheads to execute more cleanly. The team answered his call. 

One play after a Nation Ford personal foul early in the third quarter, Davis found Trevor Testerman streaking down the middle of the field from 32-yards out to regain the lead.

Two drives later, Davis spotted Henderson racing down the right sideline and found him with a dime of a pass to push the lead to 21-7. 

The first play of the fourth quarter was a Henderson 10-yard touchdown run, which capped off a four-play, 48-yard drive that took less than a minute. And Jairus Frank caught a 15-yard scoring pass from Davis, just minutes after Catawba Ridge’s Andre Hodge picked off Black in the opposing end zone. 

Black’s one-yard rushing score was a consolation prize after a long, hard day where he felt plenty of pressure. 

Matthew Carlyon, who stepped up to the plate as an emergency kicker, notched all five point after touchdown kicks in the win. 

“We formed a bond,” Lendyak said, of his team. “The seniors last year couldn’t play in this game, so this was for both senior classes tonight. They were really prepared, and knew what to do.” 

Nation Ford next welcomes River Bluff to Fort Mill in a non-region game Sept. 3. Catawba Ridge returns home next Friday to play Greenwood in a non-region game.

Nation Ford’s Brooks Johnson hauls in a touchdown catch during the Falcons game against Catawba Ridge.