Both Thomas Heyward Academy and Hilton Head Christian Academy entered Saturday looking to defend their 2020 SCISA state titles.
By the end of the day, both teams could say they succeeded.
The Thomas Heyward Rebels defeated Lee Academy, 35-13, in the SCISA 1A Championship to secure their fourth state title in a row.
Just a few hours later, the Hilton Head Christian Academy Eagles defeated Williamsburg Academy, 34-7, in the 2A Championship to claim back-to-back titles.
HILTON HEAD CHRISTIAN ACADEMY 34, WILLIAMSBURG ACADEMY 7
“My first thought when that final whistle sounded was that we did it again,” said Hilton Head Christian Academy senior Jackson Lanier. “We did it again. And for me to go out in my last game as a senior and for it to be a state championship ring, man that was just huge.”
Although the Eagles emerged victorious over Williamsburg Academy, things were not easy at first. The Stallions kept starting quarterback Jace Blackshear constantly on the run, limiting long passes and forcing to scramble outside the pocket.
The momentum shifted with less than a minute to go in the first half, when Hilton Head Christian converted a fourth-and-long inside the Williamsburg 20-yard-line with a pass from Blackshear to Lanier.
Senior running back Joseph “Speedy” Robinson then capped off the drive with a touchdown to give the Eagles a 12-0 lead going into halftime.
“I was supposed to run just a little stop route but I found the green grass and me and Jace have that special connection,” Lanier said. “We’ve had it for the past four years and so he found me and I found him and I took it for the extra yards that we could get for the first down.”
The Eagles really broke things open to start the second half with another touchdown run from Robinson; his third of the day, Then, after recovering a Williamsburg fumble, Lanier ran around left end for a 24-yard touchdown, which put Hilton Head Christian up 27-0.
Blackshear added one more score for good measure, a beautiful fade route to Isaiah Anderson in the fourth quarter to seal the 34-7 victory.
“I can’t even explain it with words; I’m just stoked right now,” Blackshear said. “Best feeling in the world.”
“I came into this season not knowing anybody and then I saw Jace and saw Bulldog (Lanier) and we all created a bond,” Robinson said. “This is family, we put our trust in each other and hold each other accountable. It feels amazing, man, just to hold the trophy.”
“We’ve all been with each other for the past four years and so having that connection between the big four, it’s a lifelong connection, it’s not something that’s just football,” Lanier said.
THOMAS HEYWARD ACADEMY 35, LEE ACADEMY 13
They say sequels are never as good as the original, but for head coach Nic Shuford, title number four was just as special as title number one.
“Each one of them was different and they’ve all got a different feeling to them,” Shuford said. “They’re all special in different ways and this one is no different. This is a special group of guys that brought into what we’re doing and now they’re reaping the benefits of it.”
Thomas Heyward Academy came out firing in their 35-13 victory over Lee Academy, scoring a touchdown on their first three drives, all from different players.
The Rebels got an especially big boost from eighth grader Tony O’Banner, who had scored a touchdown in every game this season and who found the endzone twice in the victory.
“It’s awesome, it’s perfect where the offensive line sets up and all that stuff,” O’Banner said. “They open the holes and I go right through.”
Thomas Heyward led 28-7 at halftime and extended their lead in the first minute of the second half on the second of O’Banner’s two touchdowns.
Lee Academy was able to move the ball in the fourth quarter, but it was too little too late to prevent Thomas Heyward from hoisting the trophy once again.
“That’s what we do, man, we come in every week, ready to play, read to be physical, ready to be fast on the defensive side and give our offense the ball to make plays,” said senior Brandon Howard. “That’s what we do.”
“That’s the way they’ve been all year,” Shuford said. “We might have good practices, bad practices, but come Friday they are locked in and ready to go. This is a good group of guys and it was definitely a team win.”
“I was just waiting until that clock hits zero, and that’s when I know I have another ring on my finger,” Howard said.