When Nation Ford arrives on home turf in mid-August, fans will notice what head coach Michael Allen already knows: the Falcons are young. Don’t look for Allen or someone who wears red and black to tell you that’s a bad thing, though.
Despite several key graduation losses, senior quarterback Carson Black returns to guide the Falcon offense. Black, a signing from Memphis who was a finalist for 5A Offensive Player of the Year at the Tri-County Coaches Association awards last season, enters the campaign with a different group of talent around him. He also has new opportunities, which excites Allen and offensive coordinator David Johnson.
“We had conversations with Carson in the offseason, (emphasizing) that we were going to be very young at receiver, so he could really take charge of that,” Allen said. “I saw him play that role a bit. It’s hard to do as a teenager. His work ethic – no one will top him. He leads by example. When he talks, it’s loud. They know he gives his all.
When Black puts on the snap and scans the field, he’ll see a new array of weapons ready to trap a throw. Despite the receiving talent that has evolved, competent hands will not be lacking.
“We have kids with elite speed,” Johnson commented. “Maybe they don’t have all the reps in the game that those guys had as three- or four-year-old starters. We’ve got a big boy, Ben Wakefield, who’s going to take over at the H position, with Vance Porter, Jeremiah Hailstock, Jordan Ussery, Braydon Flores and Clayton Rygol It will be more per committee.
“The last two years when we ran out, you knew (numbers) 3 (Quadeir Hand), 4 (Jerrick Foster) and 6 (Kenan Bowman) – they were going to be there. They had been tenured for several years. I think the sky is the limit for this band. I think we can achieve anything we want to achieve. It will just have to be more the group than the individuals.
“With this group of receivers that we have, we can use any type of scheme,” Allen added. “You can’t just bracket someone because someone else is just as dangerous as this guy.”
The receiving group will also allow the Falcons (4-6, 2-2 Region 3-5A in 2021) to be a little more balanced offensively. Much of that balance will be centered around junior running back Will Alvarado. Alvarado picked up injuries at times during his second campaign but looks set to return to the form he showed as an outstanding rookie. Alvarado built his strength and endurance from the weight room, sure, but his switch to lacrosse also added flexibility and lacrosse, his coaches noted. Hailstock will split his time with Alvarado when he’s not playing catcher.
Nation Ford’s offensive line and defense are elite
One veteran advantage the Falcons enjoy is the group that will block for Black, Alvarado and skilled players. The depth of the group even caused Allen to exclaim, “I like it, man!”
“We have more depth than usual,” Johnson said. “Alan Minarro returns to the offensive line, along with Jason Baxter and Michael King. They are all returners who have played significant minutes on the varsity team. We will also be bringing in JV kids who have played all year – Julien Fuentes , Savyion Drayton and all those kids who will also enter the mix.
The depth of attack also translates to the defensive side of the ball. Rygol returns as a standout linebacker, along with Jadon Washington. The two make a formidable pair in midfield. Morgan Ramirez and Flores are also key defensive contributors. Due to the depth, other stars will surely emerge.
Allen notes a dominant theme with his defense.
“I think the first thing, as any coach would like to say, is that we are fast. I think speed is a great player on the defensive side of the ball, especially closing gaps and keeping two-yard runs from two-yard runs or two-yard passes from two-yard passes,” Allen said. . “We will be able to get people into the field faster. I think we’ll do a much better job if we’re disciplined in the secondary pulling off those big plays.
“I feel like our football IQ is a bit higher with the group of kids we put on the pitch. Speed and knowledge are the two things I would say about our defense.
The Falcons also have another returning veteran weapon. One of their seniors was mostly a game-changer with just his right foot, but his hands, size and speed will also be huge factors in 2022. Star kicker Reed Richardson has helped the Falcons control position on the pitch with its pinpoint accuracy and full swing. punts and will be called upon this year to visit the end zone with more than just his kickoffs.
“Reed brings a lot to the table,” Allen said. “I like that he’s going to catch touchdown passes too. He can catch a touchdown pass, he can kick the extra point, then he can go kick it in the end zone. His name will be called on three consecutive games. I think that really benefits us.
Between Richardson’s thunderous right foot and the Falcon’s defense, Allen is succinct in his belief in both.
“We’re not afraid to kick off the football,” Allen said authoritatively.
Allen and his team still have a season-ending trip to Colombia in their sights — as always — but the Falcons will have an even sharper focus in 2022.
“I think the biggest opportunity right now is to beat Indian Land,” Allen said. “I’m sincere. I know it sounds like a cliché, but for us our goal right now is to beat Indian Land and then focus on next week. With the blue collar group we have and with the special people that we have in special places, I think if you can really, really keep bringing that crowd one week at a time and focus on that one, I think you take it step by step.
“Of course, we want to win the region. Of course, we want to win a state championship. I think keeping this particular group locked into one task week after week is going to serve them really well.
Nation Ford Football Program
Check out The Herald’s website for a complete rundown of all 2022 high school football schedules in York, Chester and Lancaster counties. Asterisks indicate a Region 3-4A match.
Aug. 19 vs Indian Land — Aug. 26 at York — Sept. 2 at Catawba Ridge — Sept. 9 vs. Northwestern — Sept. 16 at GW Danville (VA) — Sept. 23 BYE — Sept. 30 at Clover* — Oct. 7 vs. Blythewood* — Oct. 14 vs. Rock Hill* — Oct. 21 at Spring Valley* — Oct. 28 vs. Fort Mill*