FORT MILL — Faced fourth-and-7 with less than a minute remaining, Rock Hill quarterback Brandon Banks dropped back to pass for a potential game-winning touchdown. But Banks was quickly met by Nation Ford defensive back Keshawn McClure, who dropped Banks for the sack and preserved the Falcons’ 26-21 victory over the Bearcats.
Both Nation Ford and Rock Hill headed into Friday Night’s tilt at Nation Ford playing for their playoff lives. Both teams are fighting for the fourth spot in Region 3-AAAA and needed to win two of their last three games to assure them the final playoff slot.
Nation Ford entered the contest giving up 129 points in its last two games and it was not a flawless effort, but the Falcons bowed up on defense when they needed to, none bigger than the stop in the game’s final minute.
Rock Hill took over on offense at its own 20-yard line with just under three minutes remaining and two timeouts left. Bearcat running back Justin Stokes ran for nearly 60 yards on the drive to set up the visitors inside the Falcons’ 20-yard line with less than a minute left.
The trip to the red zone was the fourth of the night for Rock Hill, but turnovers and a muffed snap squelched its previous attempts.
Before the the deciding fourth-down stop, Nation Ford held Stokes to three yards on first- and second-down and an incomplete pass on third down set up the game’s defining play.
Neither team got off to a great offensive start as they traded punts then interceptions. Through four possessions the game remained scoreless.
The Bearcats jumped ahead first on a 18-yard pass from Dylan Jones to Ju’quan Feaster. The Falcons’ Maurcus Coleman tied the score on Nation Ford’s ensuing drive. Rock Hill scored on its next play from scrimmage, a 52-yard catch and run from Jones to Feaster again.
“This was a tremendous win for our programs,” Nation Ford head coach Michael Allen said. “We told our kids our playoff season started on Monday and we challenged them to come out and play four full quarters to compete with Rock Hill.
“We competed very well, and it took every bit of all four quarters. Our defense has had a couple of rough weeks, but tonight they did what they needed to do. I am very proud of these boys. “
Dalten Helms led the Falcons with over 300 yards passing, 158 to Riley Hilton. Stokes added 109 rushing yards for the Bearcats in the losing effort.
Nation Ford returns home next Friday evening to take on one of the state’s top teams in the Northwestern Trojans. Rock Hill hosts Lancaster. If Nation Ford fails to upset Northwestern, the Falcons will likely have to get their first ever win against cross-town rival Fort Mill on the road in the annual Milltown Showdown to clinch a playoff berth.
Nation Ford 26, Rock Hill 21
RH– Ju’quan Feast 18 pass from Dylan Jones (Easton Templeton kick)
NF – Marcus Coleman 4 run (Caleb Bruckner kick)
RH – Feaster 52 pass from Jones (Templeton kick)
NF – Hank Tuipulotu 4 pass from Dalton Helms (kick failed)
NF – Helms 8 run (pass failed)
NF – Brandon Cureton 14 pass from Helms (Bruckner kick)
RH – Brandon Banks 1 run (Templeton kick)
RUSHING NATION FORD: Dalton Helms 9-23, Marques Coleman 15-40, Keyshaw McClure 2-7. . ROCK HILL: Justin Stokes 14-109, Banks 5-2, Feaster 1-7, Timothy Sherer 3-9, Jones 2-12.
PASSING NATION FORD: Helms 30-40-1-301. . ROCK HILL: Banks 9-19-1-66, Dylan Jones 7-12-2-150.
RECEIVING NATION FORD: Brandon Cureton 9-73, Hank Tuipulotu 3-13, Colt Taylor 2-22, Josh Shade 1-(-3), Coleman 4-38, Riley Hilton 11-158.. ROCK HILL; Feaster 4-126, . Da’chon Witherspoon 2-14, Stokes 4-32, John McCullough 1-7, Jermaine White 1-11, Antonio Hardy 2-16.
RECORDS NATION FORD 6-3, 3-2 Region 3AAAA ; ROCK HILL 3-6, 2-3 .