Nation Ford’s Quadier Hand scores Friday night against River Bluff. Photos by Stephanie Marks-Martell

The Nation Ford Falcons defense came up big on three different occasions stopping the River Bluff Gators from scoring at the one-yard line twice as they were able to hold on for a 28-21 win. 

“This team is trying to find itself,” said Nation Ford head coach Michael Allen. “River Bluff is a good team. They got players.” 

The win put the Falcons at 1-2 on the season. The Falcons defense also caused five fumbles, recovering two of them as well.

“We had to do three things to win this game – cut down on penalties, catch the football and create turnovers,” Allen said. “We did all three.”

Nation Ford quarterback Carson Black was able to perform pretty well despite having a soft cast on his non-throwing left arm from his broken wrist he received in the first game of the year against Indian Land. Black went 23-for-39 for 283 yards and three touchdowns. Despite some dropped passes, the Falcons receivers came up big when needed especially Kenan Bowman and Quadier Hand. Bowman caught eight passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns. Hand caught six passes for 47 yards and a touchdown. Brooks Johnson caught five passes for 53 yards.

The Gators were able to open the fourth quarter scoring to tie the game at 21-21 after putting together a 12-play drive late in the third quarter that ate up most of the time on the clock. 

On the next series, Bowman and Black were able to put the Falcons back on top with a 51-yard touchdown reception, the second between the two, allowing Nation Ford to regain the lead with about 10 minutes left in the game, which ended up being the game winner.

River Bluff put together a pretty lengthy drive, but Nation Ford again stopped them at the one-yard line. However, with bad field position, Nation Ford was forced to punt giving the ball back to the Gators with about three minutes left in the game. The Gators were able to put together a final attempt to tie the game up, but fell short on an interception in the end zone by Nation Ford’s Brooks Johnson with 26 seconds left. 

River Bluff opened the second half running the ball right at Nation Ford on a 13-play, 75-yard drive. The Gators took advantage of a face mask penalty by Nation Ford to get in the red zone, where they would get to the one-yard line before fumbling the ball back to the Falcons. Nation Ford struggled to make anything happen on the drive and had a 58-yard touchdown pass called back because of a penalty. 

Defensively, Nation Ford was able to play well and kept the Gators contained after their first series of the game, where they were able to get the majority of their yardage in the opening quarter. The Falcons closed out the first quarter with a nice drive that transitioned into the second quarter, but coughed the ball up on the first play of the second quarter. 

A Nation Ford penalty then helped to get River Bluff in the red zone off the penalty where they ended up scoring on the next play with a 19-yard touchdown pass to Apollos Cook. 

Early in the second quarter, Nation Ford tried to answer back on a nice drive of 77-yards that resulted in a one-yard touchdown run by Eli Whitner, set up by two crucial catches from Bowman of 29-yards and 13-yards. 

With about four minutes left in the second quarter, Black was picked off giving the Gators ample field position where they would then tie the game on the next play with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Hunter Sheppard to Cook. 

Despite the mistake, the Falcons came right back to put together another scoring drive on a six-play 72-yard drive march as Black hit Brooks Johnson on a 23-yard pass to get them over midfield. Black then hit Bowman for a 28-yard touchdown on the next play putting the Falcons back up 21-14 before the half. 

The Falcons were able to start moving the ball better on their second series of the game, but penalties and dropped passes hurt Nation Ford in the first quarter more than anything. The quick hands of Ja’Derrick Foster was able to recover a fumble by River Bluff on a punt to put Nation Ford on the Gators’ 12-yard line. Black was then able to find Hand for a four-yard touchdown four-plays later to give them an early lead with about 4:25 left in the quarter. 

Nation Ford got the opening kickoff but struggled on the opening drive failing to do anything after two early dropped passes. The Gators went right to the ground to open things up for River Bluff and used three main players to do the majority of work on the drive in running back Gary Herring, Sheppard and Cook. 

Up next for the Falcons on its schedule is a road game at District III Stadium in Rock Hill against Northwestern.

Mac Banks:, @fortprep

Nation Ford’s Braydon Flores and Callan Sobas take down River Bluff running back Gray Herring Friday night at Nation Ford.