NORTH AUGUSTA --
Devonte Pressley ran for 258 yards and a pair of touchdowns to power North Augusta past Nation Ford 43-29 Friday night in the first round of the Class AAAA-Division II football playoffs. The Falcons battled back from a 27-7 halftime deficit, but fumbled twice in the second half, coughing up any chance at a miracle comeback, while Pressley’s dominant running pushed his team into a second round meeting with undefeated Greenwood next week.
“Very good running back, very good offensive line,” said Nation Ford coach Michael Allen afterward. “That’s a great football team. They’ve got a chance to go far.”
Afterward, the emotional Falcons were left to rue two turnovers in a five-minute second-half span. After Daniel Jackson’s 4-yard touchdown rumble made it 34-21, the Falcons defense forced a rare North Augusta punt with a minute left in the fourth quarter. But when Corey Condron’s kick bounced backward into the unsuspecting arms of a Nation Ford player, a heads-up Yellow Jackets special teamer ripped it away, giving the home team the ball at Nation Ford’s 25. Willie McCloud scored on an option pitch shortly thereafter to make it 41-21.
There was still time though, and Allen’s crew marched right back down the field, going 57 yards. But Andrew Barr had the ball popped loose at the 5, and North Augusta pounced on the pigskin, dodging another threat.
“We tried to make a run in the second half; we shot ourselves in the leg a couple of times,” said Allen.
Turnovers aside, Nation Ford had enough on its plate trying to stop North Augusta’s whiz-bang tailback. Pressley hinted at the kind of night he was in for on the game’s opening drive when he carried nine times on a 12-play, 76-yard possession that put the home team in front 7-0. Pressley’s weaving 5-yard run capped the march and displayed what he did best, patiently following a mammoth Yellow Jackets offensive line before bursting into open turf.
“We played better this week than we did last week,” said North Augusta coach Dan Pippin, referring to his offensive line, which struggled at times last week in a loss to Dutch Fork that cost the Yellow Jackets the Region 5 championship.
Nation Ford’s opening drive showed what it could do best. Dalton Helms, who threw for 320 yards in the losing effort, whistled a 60-yard touchdown bomb into the outstretched arms of AK McCoy to tie the score. But after Pressley raced through a yawning hole to the right side and ripped off a 46-yard touchdown scamper, McCoy injured his ankle and had to leave the game before the first quarter had ended. The North-South All-Star game selection was unable to return, and a difficult proposition became even tougher.
“To lose that type of athlete certainly hurt us,” Allen said. Receiver Dijuan Ussery stepped up in his last outing in Nation Ford colors, grabbing nine balls for 158 yards and a touchdown, but it ultimately wasn’t enough.
The Yellow Jackets have won at least 11 games each of the last three years, and they ruthlessly took advantage of the momentum whenever they accrued some. In between two Nation Ford three-and-outs, North Augusta, the No. 6 seed, cobbled together another impressive scoring possession, this one 12 plays, 69 yards. Trey Morgan took a wildcat snap in from five yards to make it 20-7.
North Augusta held the visiting Falcons, the No. 11 seed, to 15 yards rushing in the first half, and after forcing another punt, went up 27-7. Sophomore quarterback Trib Reece hit Devin Grimes with a 29-yard touchdown pass, though it appeared Grimes may have pushed off to create some room between himself and the defender.
Twice before the half finished Nation Ford drove deep into the Yellow Jackets’ end. But Helms narrowly overthrew Riley Hilton on fourth and goal to end the first drive, before Cameron Hampton intercepted Helms on the second, sending Allen’s team into the changing room down three scores.
Despite the disappointing conclusion to the season, there were positives to build upon. For starters, the five-year old school made the postseason for the second year running, qualifying from one of the toughest regions in the state.
“We took steps,” said Allen, smiling. “We’re up and coming; we don’t think we’re going anywhere but straight forward.”
North Augusta 43, Nation Ford 29
NAHS -- Devonte Pressley 5 run (Dylan Davis kick)
NFHS -- AK McCoy 60 pass from Dalton Helms (Corey Condron kick)
NAHS -- Pressley 45 run (Davis kick)
NAHS -- Trey Morgan 5 run (kick failed)
NAHS -- Devin Grimes 29 pass from Trib Reece (Davis kick)
NFHS -- Daniel Jackson 1 run (Condron kick)
NAHS -- Morgan 26 pass from Reece (Davis kick)
NFHS -- Jackson 4 run (Condron kick)
NAHS -- Willie McCloud 4 run (Davis kick)
NAHS -- Helms sacked by Chris Howard (safety)
NFHS -- Dijuan Ussery 36 pass from Helms (Tuipulotu 2 pass from Helms)
RUSHING NFHS: Daniel Jackson 11-35; Andrew Barr 4-14; Dalton Helms 7-25; Kenny Settle 1-1; Riley Hilton 1-(-4). NAHS: Devonte Pressley 43-258; Willie McCloud 4-17; Trib Reece 2-8; Trey Morgan 4-20.
PASSING NFHS: Helms 21-38-1-2. NAHS: Reece 12-25-2-2.
RECEIVING NFHS: Dijuan Ussery 9-158; AK McCoy 2-63; Hank Tuipulotu 6-50; Riley Hilton 2-12; Dylan Yagle 1-15; Barr 2-39. NAHS: Devin Grimes 4-51; Dre Dunbar 2-17; Morgan 6-75.
RECORDS NFHS 7-5 ; NAHS 9-3