FORT MILL — The dream of an all-Fort Mill Upper State final went up in smoke Friday as the Nation Ford Falcons lost 8-7 after three overtimes to Greenville in the boys’ lacrosse playoffs.
The Falcons were up 7-4 heading into the fourth quarter, but allowed three goals to Greenville. Nation Ford struggled for nearly all of the final 17 minutes of the match and didn’t score. The Falcons were led by four goals from senior Alex Skidmore.
Nation Ford finished the year with a 9-5 record and made the playoffs for the first time in its short two-year history of the program.
The Falcons were able to make history this week by beating Spartanburg 10-9 in its first ever playoff game.
With just 10.9 seconds left, Skidmore scored the game-winner for the Falcons in that one.
Head coach Brian Holland joked with his team afterward that the yoga the team did at his wife, Lisa, an instructor at the Belly Guru Yoga studio in Pineville, N.C., could have helped them.
“We aren’t done yet,” Holland said. “We have got a lot of work left, but at the end we were composed and played good solid defense.”
The Falcons had seen Spartanburg earlier this season, beating them 7-4 in the middle of March, when the Vikings made the trip to Nation Ford. This time Holland expected a closer game.
“They (Spartanburg) played much better this time around,” he said. “It was harder on our defense.”
With Nation Ford leading 9-6 with just under eight and a half minutes left in the game, Spartanburg came back with a vicious rally to tie the game.
The Falcons added to its lead again just 37 seconds into the final quarter as senior Cameron Gibson scored to make it 8-6 in Nation Ford’s favor.
Nation Ford kept the momentum swinging in their direction as Skidmore shot a rocket past Spartanburg goal keeper William Valainis just three minutes later.
Just when it looked as if the Falcons would cruise, Spartanburg junior Robert Grier would score to put them back into the game, breaking a 5-0 run for Nation Ford. The goal gave Grier a hat trick for the night.
Spartanburg sophomore Chappell Bauknight made it even closer as the Vikings pulled within one two minutes later as he made it 9-8. Then with just over two minutes left in the game, Spartanburg junior Shaw Camp tied the game.
After a disappointing second quarter in which they were shut out, the Falcons rebounded in the third quarter to do the same to the Vikings. Nation Ford cut Spartanburg’s lead to just one as senior Jake Couchenour scored just 37 seconds into the third quarter to make it 6-5. Couchenour then tied it four minutes later to secure the hat trick for himself.
Nation Ford junior Matt Moore broke the tie three minutes later to allow the Falcons to regain the lead.
The Vikings owned the second quarter. Spartanburg tied the game at four just 36 seconds into the second quarter on a goal by Bauknight. The Vikings tried to slow things down in the second quarter after tying it up by slowly and methodically moving the ball inside and then kicking it back out front if they didn’t see an opening to shoot at.
Nation Ford struggled making passes and catching the ball as the Spartanburg defense aggressively attacked the ball handler and ended up getting ground balls off Falcon turnovers.
Spartanburg took its first lead of the game with about 4:30 left in the first half on Grier’s second goal of the game to make it 5-4.
Vikings extended their lead to 6-4 less than a minute later as junior Hollis Burnett scored, forcing a Nation Ford time out.
The Falcons wasted no time in establishing its offense to open the game. Nation Ford struck first just a little over two minutes into the game as junior Jack Nelms put them up 1-0 after going up the middle.
Couchenour got into the action just under a minute later to put the Falcons up 2-0 as he scored.
Spartanburg took its first time out of the game just under four minutes into the action after Nation Ford scored again, this time on a goal by Gibson.
The timeout must have helped as the Vikings’ Grier came out of the break to put Spartanburg on the board. Once the goal by the Vikings, Nation Ford struggled maintaining possession, which eventually led to a time out of their own.
That timeout must have helped Nation Ford in return, because Skidmore came out and scored for the Falcons with about two minutes left in the first period.