COLUMBIA – Missed chances by the Nation Ford Falcons cost them a 5A first round playoff win over the Spring Valley Vikings as they fell 32-24 Friday night to end their season.
Spring Valley, which improved to 6-3, came in the game after finishing second in Region 4-5A and was a two seed, while Nation Ford came in as a third seed after finishing third in Region 3-5A. The Falcons finished the season at 4-6 overall. Spring Valley will play Spartanburg next week in the second round of the playoffs.
“I feel like we didn’t execute like we needed to,” said Nation Ford head coach Michael Allen. “They were able to move the ball on us pretty well in the second half. They fought hard. At the end of the day, I love our kids’ fight. They put themselves in a position to win. We have a great group of young men.”
Nation Ford quarterback Carson Black led the Falcons going 17-for-32 for 300 and three touchdowns. His main targets were Brooks Johnson and Donivan Pittman. Johnson caught four passes going for 74 yards and Pittman caught five going for 95 yards. The Falcons also ran the ball well at times as Black rushed for 52 yards on seven carries and Jeremiah Hailstock rushed for 44 yards on seven carries.
The Falcons kept pace in the second half with Spring Valley as they scored with 9:32 left in the game to open the fourth quarter and pull within two as Black and Pittman connected on a 19-yard touchdown pass, their second score of the game, to bring Nation Ford to within two points at 26-24.
After the Falcons pulled within two, the Vikings would march down and score to continue to extend their lead and make Nation Ford play from behind.
Nation Ford opened the third quarter with a fumble recovery deep in their own territory. The Falcons then started running a hurry-up offense and picking up big gains with the help of a reception from Jerrick Foster and Quadier Hand to eventually get to the 4-yard line. Nation Ford struggled to get it in the end zone and had to settle for a 21-yard field goal by Evan Cox to pull within three at 13-10 with 7:52 left in the quarter.
Spring Valley answered right back and scored on their next series as quarterback DQ Smith ran it in from 45-yards out. Smith was 12-for-19 passing for 119 yards, but did more on the ground with 20 carries for 175 yards and four touchdowns.
Nation Ford was able to move the ball better in the second half, but struggled the closer they got to the end zone. The Falcons were aided by a roughing the passer call to get to the one-yard line, but then a Nation Ford penalty pushed them back to the 21-yard line. Three plays later Black hit Pittman for a 15-yard touchdown to get the Falcons back in the game and make it 19-17 with 4:18 left in the third.
Spring Valley continued to have an answer for ever Falcons’ score. Smith led the Vikings down the field spinning and bouncing off tackles as they got to the one-yard line before he would score his fourth touchdown of the game on a run one play later.
The Falcons opened the second quarter on the move, but it was a two-steps forward, one step back process for Nation Ford. Black struggled with his passes at one point in the game and was able to move the ball better on the run.
Spring Valley found holes on the ground and was able to gobble up first downs on multiple runs and keep the clock moving. The Vikings got the lead with about 5:30 left in the first half as Smith ran in from three yards out. Clayton Rygol blocked the point after for the Falcons as they kept it a one-score deficit.
Nation Ford struggled to find a rhythm in the second quarter as the Falcons went to a hurry up offense which at times struggled. Penalties, while not a lot, hurt and came at bad times for the Falcons during their offensive drives.
Spring Valley managed the clock well in the first half and used it to their advantage when they were pinned deep in Nation Ford territory. The Falcons had them at the seven-yard line, but the Vikings were able to work their way out and punt giving Nation Ford the ball at about midfield with about 56 seconds left in the half. The Falcons used Black’s legs to get near the red zone and then Black hit Johnson for a 23-yard pass to get to the one-yard line. Two plays later Black was picked off in the end zone to end the first half.
Nation Ford went right after Spring Valley and scored on their first drive in just a handful of plays as Black hit Kenan Bowman for 37-yard touchdown just 49 seconds into the game.
The Falcons defense held Spring Valley on their first series, but the Vikings were able to bounce back and scored on the second series on a nine-yard run by Smith to tie the game at 7-7.
One problem that started developing for Nation Ford was receivers failing to catch the ball on the coldest night of the season thus far. Nation Ford struggled to duplicate their early success offensively, as the Spring Valley offense started to figure out ways to gain yards against the Falcons.
Mac Banks: email@example.com, @fortprep