HSFB: Rebels earn title defense, rematch with Blazers

It has become an annual occurrence for Thomas Heyward and Pee Dee Academy to square off in a postseason slugfest, and Friday night was no different.

Bruzza Pusha rushed for 145 yards and two touchdowns to help defending state champion Thomas Heyward outlast Pee Dee Academy 20-7 on the road Friday in a rematch of last year’s state title game. The Rebels (10-2) will defend their SCISA Class 1A title at noon next Saturday, when they get a rematch with region champion Bethesda Academy at Benedict College.

It’s the fourth straight postseason the Rebels and Golden Eagles have faced off, and they also played a regular-season contest at Thomas Heyward on Sept. 20. The Rebels have now won three straight in the budding rivalry, but this one didn’t come without a fight. 

Pusha scored on a quarterback keeper midway through the second quarter to give the Rebels a 6-0 advantage, but Connor Gasque answered for the Golden Eagles with a 76-yard punt return for a touchdown to make it 7-6 with 4:39 remaining in the first half.

Pee Dee Academy’s defense stood firm to open the second half. Linebacker Danny Baker recovered two fumbles to end Thomas Heyward drives, but it was the Rebels who were able to take advantage of the turnovers, with an interception from Pusha setting up another short touchdown run for a 14-7 lead. Josh Gobel also had an interception for the Rebels.

Louis Smith hauled in a 60-yard catch to set up a 21-yard touchdown pass from Peyton Bennett to Zach Black with 3:17 left to play to seal it.

The Rebels’ defense was dominant, holding the Golden Eagles to just 47 yards in the first half as freshman quarterback Hudson Spivey completed five of his first 23 passes.

JR Patterson added 112 rushing yards, and John Clark Tilton had 93 for the Rebels.

Naeem Mcfadden of the Florence Morning News contributed to this report. Photo by Naeem Mcfadden.

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