In summer 7-on-7 competition, Hilton Head Christian Academy took on the big boys — and won. The Eagles beat the likes of Beaufort High and May River, two of the area’s largest public schools.
That’s how talented their skill-position players are.
As with any SCISA program, things change a bit when the big boys – relatively speaking – take the field, but if HHCA can keep its first-string linemen healthy, it could turn into a special season.
The Eagles have seven starters back on each side of the ball, but it’s a newcomer who has galvanized the offense. Junior quarterback Hayden Shinn transferred in from The Darlington School in Rome, Ga., allowing the dynamic Daniel Harrington to move from behind center to his more natural position at running back, which in turn bumped the speedy Floyd Hargrove to a receiver spot.
Throw in returning receivers Brennen Studenc and JP Peduzzi, as well as promising freshman Jace Blackshear, and Shinn has an impressive group of targets — and they’re equally impressed with their new quarterback.
“He’s got a real good arm,” Harrington said. “Much better than mine. I think we’ll have a more effective passing threat, and probably running game too. Both parts of the game are strengthened.”
The Eagles are well ahead of where they were at this time last year thanks to the sheer numbers game – they have 30 players out, which is a substantial number for a SCISA 2A squad.
“This is the first time since I’ve been here that we’re able to practice 11 vs. 11, so that makes a big difference,” said second-year head coach Ron Peduzzi, who previously served as defensive coordinator for two seasons. “When you’re able to do that, you actually get better.”
The Eagles expect to have an aggressive, ball-hawking defense. HHCA will be tested early, facing Thomas Heyward in its season opener and Georgia private-school power Memorial Day in Week 2, but if the linemen jell and remain healthy until region play begins in late-September, the Eagles should be contenders.
“It’s a work in progress right now, no doubt about it,” Peduzzi said. “We’re just trying to stay healthy, trying to get better, and see how things work out.”
HILTON HEAD CHRISTIAN ACADEMY EAGLES FOOTBALL
Coach: Ron Peduzzi
Record at HHCA: 5-4 (2nd season)
2017 record: 5-4 overall, 3-1 region, lost in first round of SCISA 2A playoffs
Returning starters: 7 offense, 7 defense
Offensive scheme: Spread
Defensive scheme: 4-4
Top returners: RB/FS Daniel Harrington, OL/DL Keegan Monahan, OL/DL Jacob Zook, WR/DB JP Peduzzi, WR/LB Brennen Studenc, OL/DE Dargan Cherry, RB/LB Max Lowrey, RB/LB Ben Viljac
Notable losses: WR Zac Burke, K Evan Berkner, DB Reece Woods, OL/DL Justin Heller
Breakout candidates: WR/DB Floyd Hargrove, QB Hayden Shinn, WR/LB Jace Blackshear, OL/DL Bryce Macaulay, RB/LB Jackson Lanier
PLAYER TO WATCH
Jace Blackshear, WR: Peduzzi’s eyes light up when he says Blackshear’s name. “You will be hearing about him. He’s a special player,” he says. If the explosive freshman can draw some extra attention, it will open up the field for the rest of the Eagles’ talented backs and receivers.
Can the Eagles stay healthy in the trenches? There’s some size and talent along the offensive line, but not a lot of depth. Last season, injuries forced HHCA to move players like Ben Viljac from the skill positions to fill holes on the line. If they can keep the big guys on the field, the Eagles have enough talent on the edges to be a dangerous team.
REGION AND BEYOND
HHCA has the talent to be a difficult matchup for anyone in SCISA Region 2-2A, which appears to be up for grabs. Orangeburg Prep and John Paul II will be tough matchups for the Eagles, but they should be in every game and right in the mix.
8/17 — vs. Thomas Heyward
8/24 — vs. Memorial Day
8/31 — Open
9/7 — at Bethesda Academy
9/14 — vs. St. Andrew’s
9/21 — vs. Dorchester Academy
9/28 — at Northwood Academy*
10/5 — vs. Orangeburg Prep*
10/12 — at Colleton Prep
10/19 — vs. John Paul II*
10/26 — at Hilton Head Prep*
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